Picture Exchange Communication System.

What is PECS?

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) was developed in 1985. It is an augmentative communication system developed to help individuals quickly acquire a functional way to communicate. PECS is appropriate for learners who do not use speech or who may speak with limited effectiveness: those who have articulation or motor planning difficulties, limited communicative partners, lack of initiative in communication, etc.

PECS has received worldwide recognition for focusing on the initiation component of communication. PECS does not require complex or expensive materials. It was created with educators, resident care providers and families in mind, and so it is readily used in a variety of settings.

PECS begins with teaching a learner to exchange a picture of a desired item with a "teacher", who immediately honors the request. Each exchange is clearly intentional and easily understood. When a child hands you a picture or sentence strip, the request (or comment) is quickly determined and the learner now finds he or she has a "voice" to express desires and to have someone easily meet his or her needs.

PECS Offers Many Advantages
  • Communication is meaningful and highly motivating. Reinforcement for communication is natural and strongly rewarding. Once a learner with autism is able to communicate his or her needs, his or her level of frustration rapidly decreases.
  • Materials are cheap, easy to prepare, and portable. A PECS symbol can be as simple as a hand-drawn picture, or a snapshot.
  • With PECS, the child has an essentially unlimited pool of potential communicative partners. Anyone can understand PECS symbols: a picture with a word spelled under it.
  • Anyone willing to accept a picture is available, not just those who understand sign language or who are familiar enough with the child to understand him despite articulation or motor planning difficulties. Children are able to generalize communication to a wide circle of people very quickly.
Success using PECS at UNICA School

PECS is particularly emphasized with learners who are non-verbal. UNICA has set up a "PECS Library" of picture symbols, and learners using PECS are provided their own communication books in which to store symbols. On school outings, each learner takes his or her personal communication book with them so they have a "voice" should they need to express themselves.

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