What is PECS?
Developed by: Andrew S. Bondy, Ph.D. & Lori Frost, M.S., CCC/SLP
The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) was developed in 1985 as a unique augmentative/ alternative training package that teaches children and adults with autism and other communication deficits to initiate communication. First used at the Delaware Autistic Program, 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 readilyused in a variety of settings.
PECS begins with teaching a student to exchange a picture of a desired item with a “teacher”, who immediately honors the request. The training protocol is based on B.F. Skinner’s book, Verbal Behavior so that functional verbal operants are systematically taught using prompting and reinforcement strategies that will lead to independent communication Verbal prompts are not used, thus building immediate initiation and avoiding prompt dependency. The system goes on to teach discrimination of symbols and then how to put them all together in simple sentences. In the most advanced Phases, individuals are taught to comment and answer direct questions. Many preschoolers using PECS also begin developing speech.
The system has been successful with adolescents and adults who have a wide array of communicative, cognitive and physical difficulties. The foundation for the system is the PECS Training Manual, 2nd Edition, written by Lori Frost, MS, CCC/SLP and Andrew Bondy, PhD. The manual provides all of the necessary information to implement PECS effectively. It guides readers through the six phases of training and provides examples, helpful hints and templates for data and progress reporting. This training manual is recognized by professionals in the fields of communication and behavior analysis as an effective and practical guide to one of the most innovative systems available.
PECS is especially successful if appropriately combined with elements of behavior analysis. The manual offers many suggestions on assessing reinforcers, teaching strategies, fading prompts and other issues. The authors encourage PECS users to create an environment that enhances and encourages communication through the use of the Pyramid Approach to Education. The manual briefly outlines the Pyramid and how it can be established in various settings.
Pecs at a Glance
Phase I: Teaches students to initiate communication right from the start by exchanging a single picture for a highly desired item.
Phase II: Teaches students to be persistent communicators- to actively seek out their pictures and to travel to someone to make a request.
Phase III: Teaches students to discriminate pictures and to select the picture that represents the item they want.
Phase IV: Teaches students to use sentence structure to make a request in the form of “I want _____.”
Phase V: Teaches students to respond to the question “What do you want?”
Phase VI: Teaches students to comment about things in their environment both spontaneously and in response to a question.
Expanding Vocabulary: Teaches students to use attributes such as colors, shapes and sizes within their requests.