July 8, 2019
Our previous post, Learning to Talk, outlined the typical development pattern for expressive language. Expressive language is the ability for one to communicate wants and needs, socialize, and interact with their environment through words, gestures, and nonverbal communication. For children with a language delay or an expressive language disorder secondary to an underlying diagnosis, a picture exchange system may assist in the development of expressive language. The picture exchange system can offer a bridge between communicating with gestures or signs to verbal communication. It may also help a child develop the necessary skills to operate a high tech Augmentative Alternative Communication Device (AAC).
Picture Exchange Communication System, often referred to as PECS, is a program of picture representations for common objects, actions, and thoughts. A person can initiate conversation using PECS to communicate their wants and needs without verbally speaking. It allows children to communicate with others even if they do not have the necessary verbal skills.
Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) was developed by Andy Bondy, PhD, and Lori Frost, MS, CCC-SLP in 1985 as a system used with preschool students diagnosed with autism. The goal of the program was to teach children how to self-initiate functional communication. Based on the success of the program, it is used with many learners with various communicative, cognitive, and physical difficulties of all ages. PECS is a six phase program that emerges from single word requests to building of sentence structures. There have been several studies that confirm that implementing PECS can help children develop verbal language, as well as decrease negative behaviors associated with language delays.
PECs is an approach used for nonverbal children. If your child consistently uses words, although limited, this system may not be the first choice in treatment. The following would indicate if your child would be a good candidate for a picture exchange system.
PECs is taught by a certified, trained speech language pathologist (SLP) but involves a caregiver or teacher as part of the team. The SLP becomes certified in PECS by attending a two day training. The SLP will be the primary PECS program coordinator for a child but it can be beneficial if caregivers attend the two-day training as well. Caregivers may include parents/family members, classroom teachers, and classroom assistants. Here is a list of training workshops available across states. PECS can be taught by the SLP in a therapy clinic, home setting with early intervention, and/or school or daycare. As the child and parent progresses in their knowledge and training of PECs, it should be used in all activities in their everyday activities. During phase stage, the goal is approximately 80 picture exchanges each day.
In the early stages of PECs, there are three people in the training situation. The child, the person who receives the pictures (mom or teacher), and the facilitator who assists the child (speech therapist). Eventually, the facilitator is phased out of the training.
In the previous post, Learning to Talk, a list of seven prerequisites to verbal language were described with at-home strategies. Three of the prerequisites align with the foundation of a picture exchange system.
As a child develops these necessary skills through a picture exchange system, they are reinforcing the development of communicating for wants and needs. The caregiver is modeling the verbal production of each picture exchange providing more opportunities for modeling. For example, if Noah brings a picture of a ball to his mom, mom will state “ball, want ball”. Noah is receiving verbal modeling of the word ball to picture multiple times.
If you feel your child would be an appropriate candidate for a picture exchange system, contact Lumiere Children’s Therapy. At Lumiere Children’s Therapy, we have therapist certified in the program to help your child communicate their wants and needs across all environments.
“Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)® |.” Pyramid Educational Consultants, pecsusa.com/pecs/.
“The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).” The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), www.nationalautismresources.com/the-picture-exchange-communication-system-pecs/.
Vicker, B. (2002). What is the Picture Exchange communication System or PECS? The Reporter, 7(2), 1-4, 11
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