What is the Picture Exchange Communication System?
The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a way for autistic people to communicate without relying on speech. To communicate, people use cards with pictures, symbols, words or photographs to ask for things, comment on things or answer questions.
Who is the Picture Exchange Communication System for?
Any autistic person can use the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). There’s no age limit, but most research has focused on children. Some children might use PECS for a short time while their speech is developing. Others might use it for longer.
What is the Picture Exchange Communication System used for?
The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) gives people without spoken language or with limited spoken language skills an alternative way to communicate. PECS can also increase people’s communication skills. For example, autistic people can learn to use the cards to ask for things, make comments and answer questions.
Where does the Picture Exchange Communication System come from?
The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) was developed in the United States in 1985, as part of the Delaware Autism Program. It’s based on the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA).
What is the idea behind the Picture Exchange Communication System?
The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is based on the idea that learning happens because of the consequences of a particular behaviour and the events that lead up to it. If a behaviour leads to something that people want, the behaviour will keep happening. If the behaviour doesn’t result in what people want, it’s unlikely to happen again.
In PECS, when children use the picture cards, they’re rewarded with the objects or action they’ve asked for. Supporters of PECS say that this reinforces children’s behaviour. In turn, it increases the likelihood that children will keep using the cards for communicating needs and wants.
What does the Picture Exchange Communication System involve?
Because it’s a method of communication, the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is taught and used on a daily basis.
To start with, the PECS trainer (who might be a teacher or parent) focuses on a child’s favourite foods, toys or other everyday items. The trainer teaches the child to exchange pictures of these items for the actual items.
Later on, the child can use the cards to ask for things, to ask and answer questions, or to do more advanced tasks like making comments. The child moves from exchanging single cards to learning to build short sentences using several cards at a time.
It’s important that parents, teachers and others know how to use PECS properly. Parents and teachers can learn how to use PECS at workshops. Some families learn how to use PECS in speech pathology sessions. Speech pathologists or teachers who have been trained in PECS might also run PECS workshops at schools.
Does the Picture Exchange Communication System help autistic children?
Research has shown positive effects from the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), particularly for the early stages of PECS, which teach children how to ask for things.
More high-quality studies are needed to investigate the effects of using PECS for more complex communications and to work out which children respond best to PECS.
Research also shows that PECS doesn’t stop children from developing speech.
Who practises the Picture Exchange Communication System?
Many speech pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists, physiotherapists, social workers, parents and teachers have been trained in the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). When you’re making an appointment with a new professional, you can ask whether the professional has experience with PECS.
Where can you find a PECS practitioner?
Pyramid Educational Consultants is the only organisation certified to train people in the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). To find a certified PECS practitioner or to find out about training for yourself, contact Pyramid Educational Consultants.
Parent education, training, support and involvement
If you’re interested in using the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) with your child, it’s recommended that you do a 2-day PECS basic workshop before beginning PECS. Even if you’re taking your child to a professional to learn PECS, you’re still encouraged to do the training so you can do PECS with your child at home.
PECS-trained speech pathologists and other therapists can teach you how to use PECS with your child.
After completing PECS training, you can often do PECS at home independently. You can get more training and support if you need it.
You can expand your PECS card library as your child’s needs and interests develop.
Initial costs for the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) can be high, especially if parents do specialised workshops. Ongoing costs are low.
PECS training workshops are available through Pyramid Educational Consultants and are delivered in person or online. In 2022, the 2-day PECS basic training workshop cost $695 for professionals and $440 for parents. The workshop fee includes a copy of the PECS Training Manual, which has information for parents and practitioners who are using the system.
You can buy resources for creating PECS cards from Pyramid Educational Consultants. There are also some free resources online.
Therapies and supports for autistic children range from behaviour therapies and developmental approaches to medicines and alternative therapies. When you understand the main types of therapies and supports for autistic children, it’ll be easier to work out the approach that will best suit your child.