What is PECS?
The Picture Exchange Communication System, or PECS, allows people with little or no communication abilities to communicate using pictures. People using PECS are taught to approach another person and give them a picture of a desired item in exchange for that item. By doing so, the person is able to initiate communication. A child or adult with autism can use PECS to communicate a request, a thought, or anything that can reasonably be displayed or symbolized on a picture card. PECS works well in the home or in the classroom.
What Are the Benefits of Using PECS?
Personally, I have used PECS with many children. I find it to be especially helpful to those who are not really interested in interacting with anyone. This program teaches kiddos to initiate an interaction by handing them a picture. By using PECS, you can often take a child with no interest in other people and get them to the point where they spontaneously initiate an interaction. This can be a huge first step for children with autism or other developmental delays who were previously uninterested in communicating. Often, once they see the power of this communication, they are more open to trying other forms of communication, including speech.
Ideas for Using PECS
Identify Top Priority Words First:
# What are the child’s favorite foods/objects/activities?
# What does the parent wish the child could communicate?
# What does he need to be able to use in his daycare/preschool?
# Make pictures for these things and put the book together.
Follow Him Around with the Notebook at the Ready:
# Wait for the child to express an interest in something.
# Find that picture and put it on the outside of his book.
# Place the book in front of him while he’s playing.
# Ask for a turn with the object and take it to play with it (or wait till he runs out if it’s consumable).
# Have your back-prompter ready to prompt him to use PECS to ask for it back (or for more).
If the Child is at a Higher Level:
# Have all of the pictures inside his book and either put a few choices on the front depending on the activity or allow the child to “go shopping” and pick the picture he wants from the inside pages of the book.
# Have the book with him at all times so he can use it whenever he wants to.
If you’re Not Actually Doing PECS:
If you’re just having the child point to pictures to communicate or even hand them to you but you’re not doing the structured PECS program, you can do things like…
# Have pictures velcroed in different locations around the house or classroom. For example, you can have a few pictures of your child’s favorite drinks velcroed to the fridge door and a few of his favorite snacks velcroed to the pantry door.
# Have a shelf with toys up high (out of the child’s reach) and Velcro a picture that represents that toy down lower where he can reach it.
# Velcro a picture to an actual toy, like a picture of bubbles on the bubble jar or a picture of a train car on the box of train tracks.
# Use place mats and boards to offer common picture choices during certain activities (snack mat with common foods and things like “more”, “eat”, “drink”, “all done”, and “yummy”).
The Six Phases of the Picture Exchange Communication System Are:
PECS PHASE I: How to Communicate
The child with autism learns to exchange single pictures for items or activities they really want.
PECS PHASE II: Distance and Persistence
Still using single pictures, the child with autism learn to generalize this new skill by using it in different places, with different people and across distances. They are also taught to be more persistent communicators.
PECS PHASE III: Picture Discrimination
The child with autism learns to select from two or more pictures to ask for their favorite things. These are placed in a communication book, a ring binder with Velcro strips where pictures are stored and easily removed for communication.
PECS PHASE IV: Sentence Structure
The child with autism learns to construct simple sentences on a detachable sentence strip using an “I want” picture followed by a picture of the item being requested.
PECS PHASE V: Answering Questions
The child with autism learns to use PECS to answer the question, “What do you want?”
PECS PHASE VI: Commenting
Now the child with autism is taught to comment in response to questions such as, What do you see?, What do you hear? and What is it? They learn to make up sentences starting with I see, I hear, I feel, It is a, etc.
At some point we are offering some products or services for a fee, such as selling laminated velcro photo pecs services or selling our entire PECS card catalog. We had more than 500 photo pecs. Pecs in English and Bahasa available only.
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