Picture Exchange Communication SystemWhat is PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System)?

Picture Exchange Communication System is a system intended to help individuals who are nonverbal or lack speech skills. Through the use of pictures and word phrases individuals that are nonverbal or lacking speech can communicate their wants, needs, and feelings. Each learner has their own communication book, which has all of their highly preferred picture items in it as well as daily living tasks and every day items/activities that would be needed or used. The communication books should be individualized to meet the needs of each person.

With the Picture Exchange Communication System, there are usually six different phases that are taught in chronological order. Sometimes phases will be taught together though.

Phase 1: How to Communicate: During this phase, the individual is taught to give the instructor the picture of a desired item. Once the picture is handed to the instructor, the individual is given the item that is on the picture.

Phase 2: Distance and Persistence: The communication book as well as the instructor is in different areas of the room. The individual is now required to find his/her book, pull out the desired picture, and bring it to the instructor. The individual will then receive the item they requested. Within this phase, training will also take place with different people and in different places to make sure the individual can use the picture exchange communication system with various people and in a variety of different settings.

Phase 3: Picture Discrimination: The individual is taught to choose between different pictures. First, the person is taught to differentiate between preferred and non-preferred items. Then, they are taught to pick between equally preferred items.

Phase 4: Sentence Structure: This phase teaches the individual to make simple sentences. There is typically a word phase that reads, “I want” with a picture of the desired item. Later, sentences can be expanded and made more complex by teaching and including different adjectives, verbs, and prepositions.

Phase 5: Answering Questions: Individuals are taught to answer the question, “What do you want?” through the use of the picture exchange communication system.

Phase 6: Commenting: Through this phase, the individual is taught to communicate about his/her environment. With the use of word strips and pictures, the individual is able to state what he/she feels, hears, and sees, etc.