How to Use the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
Posted by Jacky G. on Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
What Is It?
The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a type of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device. The system uses picture cards for communication. It is one method that a child with a severe speech disorder can use to indicate his basic needs and wants. This reduces the child’s frustration and his social isolation.
PECS does not inhibit the development of sound production. Rather, it is a stepping stone to effective communication. Your child will learn that when he hands over a picture with a glass of orange juice on it, he will receive the juice. This builds a foundation for communication. Gradually, the child can learn to use the cards to string words together and form sentences, which lends itself to the development of verbal communication.
Commercial vs. Homemade
Commercial PECS are available; however they may not contain specific images of your child’s favorite items. They may also be a bit pricey. You could make your own picture cards and tailor them to your child’s individual needs.
Use a binder to store the picture cards. Draw an image on a piece of paper or cut an image out of a magazine and glue it to the paper. Label the picture. Laminate frequently used picture cards for the sake of longevity. Separate the cards into categories so that your child can easily access them. Create a category for food and beverages, one for toys, etc.
How to Use PECS
Work with a speech-language pathologist (SLP) to teach your child how to use PECS. Begin working with cards that correspond to your child’s favorite items, such as a favorite toy truck. Place the truck on a shelf so that your child can see it, but not reach it. Take him over to the shelf and point out the truck. Hand him the picture card and tell him that if he wants the truck, he has to show you the card. After the child shows you the card, affirm his request by speaking it. Say, “Okay, Sam, you want the truck,” at which point you should hand over the toy.
Give your child several cards with other favorite items on it. Move away from him, but stay in the same room. Remind him that if he wants something, he has to show you the right card. As your child begins to master the system, provide him with additional cards, along with a binder to hold them.
When your child appears completely comfortable with PECS, encourage him to begin to form sentences. Give him a card with the words “I want” written on it. Even if your child cannot yet read, he can learn to associate the words with the meaning. Demonstrate that when he wants something, he must first show you the “I want” card, followed by the card with the appropriate image. Always confirm your child’s communication with your own words. Say, “Okay, Sam, you want a glass of milk. Good job!”
As your child continues to progress with PECS, gradually add more words to his vocabulary and continue to encourage him to form sentences. Gradually add cards that represent intangible things, such as the color red or the feeling of sleepiness.
Speech Buddies offers tools for parents and speech therapists to help children overcome speech disorders. Consider using Speech Buddies to make articulation practice fun and engaging for your child.