What Is PECS?
The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is an approach for children and adults who cannot communicate effectively with speech
PECS is a communication aid for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and it has been used with a wide variety of learners, from preschool children to adults who have various communicative, cognitive, and physical impairments
It has been and continues to be implemented in a variety of settings and contexts (home, school, community) so users have the skills to communicate their wants and needs.
PECS has been shown to increase communication skills for individuals with ASD
National Autism Centre (2009)
Why Do We Use PECS?
Typically developing children learn to communicate from birth. For example, infants are born showing a preference for their mothers’ voice.
Intentional Communication- by six months of age, babies make sounds that are more and more like the sounds in their native language.
By six to nine months of age, babies begin to ‘communicate’ with others in order to request and comment.
By 12-19 months, baby usually engages in an average of 96 interactive episodes per hour- more than half initiated by the child touching, babbling, and offering (Hart and Risley, 1999)
Children with Autism are not responsive to the social reinforcement, for example, by Mum speaking in an excited voice when baby makes a new sound, so we wouldn’t expect that their language would develop typically.
We need to plan for actively teaching language and communication skills PECS has a functional objective which is to develop independence through using a system of picture cards/words to communicate
How Does PECS Work?
We teach using visual systems (objects, real-life pictures and symbols) to support children’s understanding of our language and to help them respond.
We teach children to use PECS across the curriculum and throughout the school day for many of our pupils
The PECS process works up from simple requests to complex sentences
It was created by Dr Andrew Bondy, offering an approach that can be used at home or school (The Pyramid Approach*)
It is often used alongside the TEACCH approach
The goal is functional, useful communication
*Use of alternative and augmentative communication systems will not inhibit speech development. “Improved oral speech often occurs with PECS”
Phase One- The Physical Exchange
Objective: Upon seeing a "highly preferred" item, the child will pick up a picture of the item, reach toward the trainer, and release the picture into the trainer's hand.
Phase Two- Expanding Spontaneity
Objective: The child goes to his/her communication board, pulls the picture off, goes to the adult, and releases the picture into the adult's hand.
Phase Three- Picture Discrimination
Objective: The child will request desired items by going to a communication board, selecting the appropriate picture from an array, going to a communication partner and giving the picture.
Phase Four- Sentence Structure
Objective: The child requests present and non-present items using a multi word phrase by going to the book, picking up a picture of "I want," putting it on a sentence strip, picking out the picture of what is wanted, putting it on the sentence strip, removing the strip from the communication board, approaching the communicative partner, and giving the sentence strip to him/her.
Phase Five- Responding to "What do you want?"
Objective: The child can spontaneously request a variety of items and can answer the question, "What do you want?"
Phase Six- Responsive and Spontaneous Commenting
Objective: The child appropriately answers "What do you want?" "What do you see?" "What do you have?" and similar questions.
1. What do you see?
2. What do you see? vs. What do you want?
3. What do you have?
4. What do you see? vs. What do you want? vs. What do you have?
5. Additional questions
6. Spontaneous requesting
Further Support with PECS
There is further information about how to get started with PECS in the Coffee morning section of our website. Alternatively, if you would like support, please speak to your child’s class teacher or Sarah Osborne, Deputy Head Teacher.