Picture Exchange Commication System (PECS)

Amanda Garrettson, M.A., BCBA, Behavior Therapist

PECS

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a specific protocol for teaching expressive language to children and adults. PECS is not just pictures or a visual schedule/display, it is a training protocol used to expand and teach a child language.  PECS was developed by Andy Bondy, Ph.D. and Lori Frost, M.S., CCC-SLP, in 1985. The training protocol can be found in the Picture Exchange Communication System Training Manual – 2nd Edition (Frost & Bondy, 2002).  There are many benefits to using PECS. Empirical evidence has shown that effective use of PECS can lead to the following; a decrease in maladaptive behaviors (Carpenter, Charlop-Christy, LeBlanc & Kellet, 1998), improved social behaviors (Le and Charlop-Christy, 1999; Le, Charlop-Christy, Carpenter, & Kellet, 1999), and improvements in speech development following the acquisition of PECS (Carpenter, Charlop-Christy, LeBlanc & Le, 1998; Carpenter & Charlop-Christy, 2000).

 

The following is a list of the phases for teaching PECS

 

Phase Target Response
Phase   1 Physical   exchange of the picture

(pick-up,   reach and release)

Phase   2 Distance   and persistence
Phase   3 Visual   discrimination among pictures
Phase   4 Sentence   structure
*Implemented   in conjunction with phase 5 and 6 *Attributes   Expansion of language concepts
Phase   5 Responsive   requesting (Responding

to   the question, “What do you want?”)

Phase   6 Commenting   (I see, I hear, etc)

 

 

When to use PECS vs Sign

There is no clear way of knowing when PECS is more appropriate, it is a case by case decision. However there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding which modality to use. PECS is typically used if the child has limited fine motor or imitation skills. Sign language is a great way for a child to communicate however it can be limiting if the child has a lot of modified signs that people not in their everyday environment would know, in which case PECS might be a better option. Consultation with a Speech and Language Pathologist and/or Behavior Analyst is recommended before implementing PECS with your child.

 

Misconceptions of PECS

It has been thought by some that PECS and other communication systems hinder a child’s ability to develop verbal language however; research conducted over the past 30 years (Silverman, 1995, Glennen, 1997) has demonstrated that augmentative and alternative communication strategies do not inhibit the development of speech. There is a strong positive correlation between use of PECS and speech development in children with autism (Bondy & Frost, 1994).

 

 

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