What is the Picture Exchange Communication System or PECS?

The Picture Exchange Communication System or PECS approach is a modified applied behaviour analysis program designed for early nonverbal symbolic communication training. It is not a program designed to teach speech, although the latter is encouraged indirectly and some children begin to spontaneously use speech while enrolled in the PECS programme PECS was developed in 1985 at the Delaware Autism Program by Lori Frost and Andy Bondy.

Who is a candidate for PECS training?

While the system is commonly used as a communication aid for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it has been used with a wide variety of learners, from preschoolers to adults, who have various communicative, cognitive, and physical impairments, including cerebral palsy, blindness, and deafness.

What is the PECS training format?

Reinforcer Inventory: Before implementing the PECS protocol, the teacher develops an inventory of which items the learner likes. This way, no verbal prompting is needed to ask the child what they want. The chosen reinforcers should be consistently motivating to the user.

Phase 1: How to Communicate-The outcome of Phase 1 is for the learner to look at, reach for, pick up, and hand the picture/symbol to their communication partner. These are the basic skills needed to effectively communicate using PECs

Phase 2: Distance and Persistence During Phase 2, the student is taught to initiate social interaction when the communicative partner is not nearby and waiting.

Phase 3: Discrimination Between Symbols During this phase, the student is taught discrimination of symbols and how to select the symbol which depicts a desired item.

Once the student demonstrates mastery with pairings of preferred and non-preferred pictures, discrimination between two preferred pictures is introduced.

Phase 4: Using Phrases During Phase 4, the student is taught sentence structure in order to make requests by using expressions such as “I want ____ “.Another skill targeted in this phase is commenting as it is learned at the same time as requesting among typically developing children. The requests consist of a sentence starter and a picture of the desired activity or item on a sentence strip. The communicative partner reads back the sentence after it has been exchanged by the student.

Phase 5: Answering a Direct Question During Phase 5, the student is taught to respond to the prompt, “What do you want?”The goal of this phase is for the child to respond “I want ___ ” regardless of whether the item is present. This phase adds upon already established skills and a desired item is still used to motivate the user to respond.

PECS is used to teach children with autism a most basic of communication skills which is self-initiating . This type of communication gets one’s basic wants and needs known, such as “I want that”, “I am hurt”, or “I need to use the bathroom . PECS begins with the exchange of simple icons/pictures but rapidly builds “sentence” structure.

It helps children with autism who have little or no communication abilities, a means of communicating non-verbally. PECS has total 6phases but initially are taught to approach another person and give them a picture of a desired item in exchange for that item independently. By doing so, the child is able to initiate communication.

PECS can be done at anytime and it also works well in the home environment or in the classroom.

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