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PECS – the Picture Exchange Communication System

What is PECS?

PECS, or the Picture Exchange Communication System, is a low-tech aided method of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) that involves the use of cards with pictures.

Children who are unable to talk or write can learn to communicate with adults using pictures instead of words. So, if a child wants a drink, for example, they will give a picture that represents ‘drink’ to an adult who will then get them a drink. The goal of PECS at this phase is to encourage the individual to communicate spontaneously, without prompt.

This is PECS at its most basic level, once a child has mastered making simple requests such as the one mentioned above, they can then by taught progressively more difficult skills, eventually becoming able to use pictures to make whole sentences. At its most advanced phase, those learning with PECS can be taught to respond to questions and even to make comments.

The idea behind PECS, and indeed most methods of AAC, is to use a person’s abilities, whatever they are, to enable them to communicate quickly, simply and effectively. We all occasionally use AAC – by waving goodbye or pointing to pictures in foreign countries – PECS allows people to use augmented or alternative communication all of the time.

Who is the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) for?

The Picture Exchange Communication System is most commonly used with children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders, but can help non-verbal children, adolescents and adults with a wide range of communicative, cognitive and physical difficulties.

PECS is not necessary or appropriate for those who already have the desire and motivation to interact with others. In these cases, other methods of augmenting communication should be used.Communication is an essential part of everyday life. PECS can allow those who lack the desire or motivation to interact with others to develop full communication, improving their opportunities, education, social life, friendships and independence.

It can be used in conjunction with other communication programmes and approaches, such as SPELL and TEACHH, which will be explained in a further blog post.

Does the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) work?

Since its development in 1985, PECS has received worldwide recognition for focusing on the initiation component of communication, teaching those who use it to begin social communication without the prompts of others. As the PECS protocol is taught progressively, it encourages persistence in gaining attention, even when initial attempts aren’t recognised by others. Both parents and professionals regard PECS as a positive and effective method of communication that is both straightforward and cost effective without being time consuming. However, it is important to stress that the use of PECS should only be implemented by appropriately trained individuals.

Who can use PECS?

If you are interested in using PECS or any other method of augmentative or alternative communication, then it’s important to consult a speech and language therapist so that you’re able to make an informed decision about how to proceed.

London Speech Therapy and the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

At London Speech Therapy we have experience of working with PECS, specifically with primary-aged children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders. We are able to advise you on accessing PECS start-up training so that you can teach your child the communication skills that matter.For more information on PECS, or to book an assessment for your child, please use the form below to get in touch.

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020 3475 2189

London Speech Therapy
10 Harley Street
London, UK