The Safety Net

Photo Books


If you or your family member or friend uses special equipment for positioning, mealtime or any number of other reasons, there are instructions for use that are unique for every individual. Accidents and injuries can occur when the equipment is not used properly. To insure consistency of understanding for all who may need to know, photo books can be a great communication tool! The development of a photo book can be very “low tech”and inexpensive, yet the value of such clear communication is immense.

Getting Started
The first thing to be done is to assure that a current evaluation is available for each therapy that the person requires. These should be done by a physical, speech or occupational therapist, and approved by the person’s team. It would be great if the therapist could participate in the photo session to assure the best possible outcome. If that is not possible, review the finished product with the experts to assure that the communication is clear and correct.

Creating a Photo Book
Assemble all needed equipment and supplies. You will need:

  • The person to be photographed. Be sure to wear clothing that does not hinder the view of the equipment being used. Close fitting garments that allow for functional movement are best.
  • A camera and film. This may be a digital camera or an inexpensive disposable one or anything in between.
  • An album with pages inserted or a three ring binder with separate pages for photos that may be purchased in a craft store or office supply store.
  • Extra light to photograph (possibly) but household lamps should do the job.
  • A clear area with no extra furnishing and no patterns or pictures on the wall.

Once you have what is needed, then:

  • Assemble the therapeutic equipment. Photographs of each item that are clearly labeled can be a good aid at the beginning of the book. Set the item on a blanket and photograph it alone.
  • Photograph each stage of the process. For example, show the person being transferred into a wheelchair and then photograph the placement of each support such as headrest, wedges or blocks.
  • Be sure to place other assistive devices, such as communication aids or mealtime equipment, exactly where they should be in relation to the individual.
  • Take lots of pictures from different angles.
  • Keep in mind that this may be very exhausting for the individual being photographed and take breaks or follow the lead of the individual.

Assembling a Photo Book
Every photograph needs to be labeled. Make some notes on the back of the picture so that if it is ever removed from the book, it can be returned to the proper location.

Place the photos into the book in the order that they will be used. Dividers may help to separate mealtime positions from transfers, for instance. Each page with a picture needs a clear, written description to go along with it. Use short sentences and limit technical language.

If you use a large book (8½”x11”) then the description may be placed below the photo on the same page. A smaller book may be used (3”x5”) that has clear pages. In this instance the photo would be first and a written description would be placed in the visible window that is on the back of the photo.

Using the Photo Book
When the book is completed, share it with those who may be assisting you or your family member. Plan a little time to go through it and answer questions.
Don’t forget to revise it as things change!

A book such as this may be enhanced if photos of other adaptive or assistive devices are also included. If the individual takes the book to any location where assistance may be provided, then communication about use of the devices may be improved.



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