Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

What is it? A method to allow communication with images to convey needs, feeling or comment on events. It is achieved through the use of pictures, used individually initially and then building up to sentences.

There are Six Phases to PECS

PHASE I: How to Communicate
Using a single picture your child requests their need.
PECS PHASE II: Distance and Persistence 
Introducing distance your child brings the picture to request an item they want.
PECS PHASE III: Picture Discrimination 
Introducing additional image cards, your child chooses the picture of what they want. The pictures are placed into a folder with Velcro strips where pictures are stored and easily removed for communication.
PECS PHASE IV: Sentence Structure
A detectable strip is added to the book, where your child is taught to add an “I want” card before the image of what they want. This is the start of sentence structure.
PECS PHASE V: Answering Questions 
Your child learns to use PECS to answer the question, “What do you want?”
PECS PHASE VI: Commenting 
Finally your child is taught to comment to questions such as, What do you see?, What do you hear? and What is it? They use the cards, I see, I hear, I feel, It is a, etc followed by the picture.

How to use it?

  1. Start with a piece of blank paper, and a favourite treat, e,g, raisins or something that can be broken up into many pieces.
  2. Sit in front of your child with the paper and treat. Get someone else to sit behind your child – this person is an actor and is to remain quiet, providing no comment.
  3. Place the piece of paper in front of your child. The silent actor, who is sitting behind, must place the paper in your child’s hand and pass the paper to you.
  4. Give your child the reward.
  5. Continue, with the actor helping your child pass the paper, until you pause and see if they will do it themselves.
  6. Once they are passing the plain piece paper willingly, replace it with the picture of the item.
  7. Once comfortable passing the picture, place two different pictures in front of your child, and let them choose what they want (make sure you have both physical items, to ensure you provide the right request).
  8. Start to move the pictures away from your child to let them retrieve them to request.
  9. Once communicating with this method, place the images in a folder with the frequently requested items on the cover.
  10. Help your child to place the “I want” card on a Velcro scrip followed by the picture request
  11. Later move to using the “I see”, “I feel”, “Look” etc cards

Taking it forward

The PECS systems has been shown to aid in verbal communication as it develops. It also provides a non-verbal person the ability to communicate with others reducing frustration, anxiety and confusion.

There many digital alternatives for the PECS system that can be used and replace the physical folder.

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