The Picture Exchange Communication System: Help for Language Problems in Kids on the Autism Spectrum

The communication problems of kids on the autism spectrum vary, depending on their intellectual and social development. Some may not speak much, whereas others may have rich vocabularies and are able to talk about topics of interest in great depth. Most have difficulty effectively using language. Many also have problems with word/sentence meaning and understanding.

A lack of communication skills may cause inappropriate behaviors and challenging situations for both the youngster and parent. The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is an augmentative communication system developed to help these “special needs” kids quickly acquire a functional means of communication.



PECS is appropriate for kids who do not use speech or who may speak with limited effectiveness (i.e., those who have articulation or motor planning difficulties, limited communicative partners, or a lack of initiative in communication). PECS has a number of advantages over other methods of addressing communication. Most importantly, it works, which encourages the youngster to communicate more often, reducing frustrating situations.

When your youngster hands you a picture or sentence strip, you can easily understand what they are trying to communicate with you. From the start, communication is initiated by your youngster, making it meaningful and highly motivating. It is an inexpensive communication system.

A PECS symbol can be as simple as a hand-drawn picture, or a snapshot. The youngster is able to communicate with anyone, versus sign language. Anyone willing to accept a picture is available, not just those who understand sign language or who are familiar enough with the youngster to understand him/her. Kids are able to generalize communication to a wide variety of situations and people.

A uniform system for using Velcro fasteners on your symbols, boards, and books needs to be established. This will ensure that all of your PECS symbols can be used with any of the boards or books within the youngster's environment.

PECS is an inexpensive card system that involves cards on which pictures or sentences are placed that have meaning to the youngster and can communicate for him. Once a card is given, the needs of the youngster are quickly understood, and the need is met by the parent. The communication is initiated by the youngster so that there are no memorization skills required.

Moms and dads can draw their own PECS cards, or they can purchase the PECS system through Amazon (see below). The picture can be elaborate or just be a symbol that the child attaches meaning to. The vocabulary is gradually increased so that many pictures are available in the communication process.

One of the values of this system is that it’s not exactly sign language so that anyone who can interpret a simple picture can learn what it takes to help the child get his or her needs met. It can be used at home as well as in school.

Autism Supplies And Developments Picture Exchange Communication System Behaviour Keyring




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