Paper PODD books are essential
Paper books are an essential part of the PODD communication system. Yet, everyone who ever made a PODD book will tell you that it is a very time consuming process. With the new simPODD app the process of personalizing, printing and updating a PODD book has been greatly simplified. This can save you hours of work. But once the paper comes out of the printer you are not done yet. In this article I share my personal experiences and tips.
Before making your PODD book
I was so excited to start our AAC journey with my son. Ludovic was 3 years old at the time. I picked the simplest book I could find, the 9 per page early functions. After all, it was his first AAC and he was so young. I customized it and printed it. Then I laminated and bound it. I did all this without even trying to use it with him. I was so proud of that first PODD book!
And then… I ran into trouble. I had a hard time modeling what I was usually saying to him. I only had 9 words on each page. I didn’t have a quick way to access our usual words and messages. I reached out to other parents who use PODD to ask what I might be missing. Many suggested I use a PODD book with more symbols on each page. So, I decided to change to the “expanded functions” book which had 12 symbols per page. Changing the book helped me feel more confident in modeling.
This is all part of a natural progression. There are no right or wrong answers! PODD is flexible and none of your decisions ever have to be final. The structure of PODD is the same no matter how many symbols you have on the page. With each change of book you make, you will also take your learning and experiences along with you.
But that change can also mean a lot of work. When I made the new book for Ludovic, I had to do all that cutting, laminating, more cutting, and binding all over again. I hope you can learn from my experience! Explore the book you intend to use with your child before laminating it. Compare and consider other page sets before making it.
How do I know if I found the right PODD book?
First, ANY book is better than no book at all, because any AAC is better than no AAC. Even the simplest PODD books help us communicate with our kids. Every PODD book can help you teach your child to ask for things, complain, comment, and be understood. You aren’t looking for the perfect book, just the one that will fit. You are looking for a book that lets you show your child how they can communicate with you. You are also looking for a book that your child can learn to use, such as by pointing to the symbols or turning pages.
Remember that over time, the books you make will wear out. You will carry it everywhere. You will be turning pages, and sometimes pointing with dirty hands (especially the food pages!). Now that my son Ludovic is nine years old, I have made 3 PODD books. Here are a few tips for making PODD books I found helpful over the years.
How to make your printed PODD book
simPODD makes it very easy to print all your pages directly from the app. To help you, see our support article Export and print a PODD book. Once you have your app set up you can look at our support page and follow the instructions to download your construction file.
Use a laser printer. Inkjet or bubblejet printers can print high quality, but the ink tends to leak when the paper gets damp. Over time, the laminate wears out and liquids leak through to the paper. We once forgot Ludovic’s PODD book outside in the rain. I had to reprint the first two pages!
Paper and lamination
Over time, you will want to laminate the pages of your PODD book. But your first PODD book doesn’t need to be laminated. You can print it on regular paper and just keep it in a binder or slide each each page into a page protector. Some families print their first book on thicker cardstock paper or shiny, heavy “report cover” paper. You will want to write on the papers of your first PODD book as you think of words to add. Save the work of laminating for your second book.
Laminating the pages of your PODD book help them last much longer. This protects it from damage.
You have to cut the pages of your PODD book before you can laminate them. The important and tricky bit to the cut out the tabs on the bottom of each page. You cut the tabs before laminating, rather than after. The tabs help you move through a PODD book, so they need the extra strength of being fully laminated.
There are many kinds of laminating pouches. Some pouches have a “matte” finish. Others have a “shiny, glossy” finish. Glossy lamination is reflective and can have a lot of glare. Matte finish is more expensive but has less glare and can be easier for kids with vision problems. You can also write more easily on matte finish pouches. This is helpful when you want to write notes about new symbols or pages to add.
Laminating sleeves can be all different thicknesses. Explore which thickness works best. Thicker laminate sheets will make your book thicker and heavier. Thinner laminate sheets may not be as strong or long lasting. It pays to look at the different options to find what works best for you. Some people laminate the front and back pages with thicker laminate to strengthen the book.
Some families print their books on waterproof paper. This lets them skip laminating. Thin waterproof paper can’t be easily torn but it can be crumpled. Some children love to scrunch thin, shiny waterproof paper. Thicker paper is more difficult to print because it can get stuck in the printer.
Some families use plastic paper but it is very expensive.
Once your pages are laminated, you need to bind them together. I have tried different ways of binding the PODD book:
- Binder rings open and close on a small hinge. You will need to hole-punch each page and slide the binder rings through the holes. Binder ringers can be more difficult to use because they tend to open even sealed with duct tape.
- Zip ties or Cable ties are better for bigger books than binder rings because they don’t open. You will need to hole punch the pages and slide the zip ties through the holes. However you may want to put a strong glue spot in the head of the zip tie once it is closed because they tend to tighten over time. The advantage of zip ties is that they are inexpensive and easy to replace if they are damaged or too tight.
- Spiral binding will probably need to be done at a professional print shop. Spiral binding is usually the most durable. Some families find that the pages of a spiral bound book turn more easily and look the nicest.
Stand or not stand ?
Most families want their PODD book propped up when they use it. Propping the book up makes it easier to show your child the symbols when you are both sitting down at a table. There are many options to build a simple stand to keep the book propped up. You can find tutorials and videos online on how to make a PODD stand. Some families buy a stand like for iPads or even a cookbook holder.
Straps and harnesses
A carry strap makes your PODD book much more portable. PODD parents often need to be hands-free when we are with our kids! The simplest strap is to thread a scarf through the spiral binder or rings that bind your book. A scarf can be as pretty, colorful, or personal as you want it to be.
As our children realize their PODD book is their voice, they will want a strap that helps them carry their book. A harness may be easiest for them, particularly for younger children. Some harnesses are even made just for AAC. Some families use harnesses designed for binoculars or cameras.
Consider extra copies
Our kids’ need their PODD wherever they are. It can be helpful to keep spare copies at school or other places where your child is regularly. If you don’t have time to laminate the extra copy, you might just use a plain binder and page protectors. Over time, as you replace old books that get worn out, you can use the older books as your back-up copies.