Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

I first heard "PECS" from a colleague at work.  Her son was learning PECS at the Florida Autism Center of Excellence.  After she gave me the Cliff Notes version of PECS, I was convinced this was another method of expressive communication we could teach Finn.  I am surprised at how many parents of non-verbal children are unfamiliar with PECS.  It is such a great tool.

PECS is a great way for kids who are non-verbal or having trouble with verbal expressive communication to tell you what they want.  In its basic terms, the kids (or adults) use a picture to tell you what they want.  If your child is in school, you may want to discuss this with his/her teacher and have PECS included on his/her IEP.  PECS is commonly used in the ASD classes, but not as commonly in the VE classes.

Teaching PECS; however, is not as easy as it appears.  There is a standardized set of pictures.  You can purchase these on-line and print them or you can see if a therapist or teacher can print them off for you.

You start slow with really only one picture at a time.  In fact, at the beginning, it doesn't even matter if the picture is the object you are practicing with.  Phase 1 is basically teaching your child that if he/she uses the picture card, he/she will receive an item in return.  When you first start, you want to use items that he/she really wants.  We used cookies, train, olives, and bananas with Finn.  Food is usually a good place to start.

Then once your child understands the concept, you can then practice putting the picture in a binder and having the child go to the binder to grab the picture and hand it to you.  Again, using the correct picture at this point is not important, what is important is that your child understands that he/she needs to go get the picture and hand it to you.

Next, you begin teaching your child the pictures.  This can be a long process and it is never ending.  Once your child has mastered a picture, you can place it in his/her binder.

Complete Pictures Kit for Autism Communication : 120 large color PHOTOS, 120 velcro dots, 12 velcro strips, 4 page dividers and folder (pics are compatible with PECS (picture exchange communication system) , ABA, VBA, ABLLS-R)

Eventually what will happen is your child will place pictures in a row to tell you what he/she wants.  He or she will "say" a sentence.  Each sentence begins with the "I want" picture.  Then it can get descriptive from there... "I want" "red" "car."

Small PECS Communication Notebook (Picture Exchange Communication System)
Finn has been using PECS quite successfully for the past few months.  He uses them when he doesn't know how to sign the word or how to say it.  It helps us as parents know what he wants when we are otherwise guessing.  We are still on stage 3 and not making sentences yet, but I'm sure that is in his future.

The great thing about PECS is that unlike sign language, most everyone can understand a picture with the written word on it.  Eventually, Finn will have a piece of techonology that will store all of the pictures so he doesn't have to carry around a binder wit hhim.  In addition, PECS is a pathway to verbal communication because you are reinforcing the sound of the word each time a picture is handed to you.

Please go to to learn more.  They also have information on workshops and training.  You can purchase the software and binders there too are you can buy them on amazon as well.

I also have the PECS page link on my home page. 

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