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Home / Autism / Therapies Guide / Therapy-based

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

At a glance: Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

Type of therapy Behavioural

The claim Improves expressive and social communication

Suitable for People with communication difficulties, including people with autism spectrum
disorder (ASD)

Research rating
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Time
Estimate of the total
time for family in Because it is a method of communication, this
hours per week and therapy involves daily use.
duration

Cost
Estimate of cost to
family per Initial cost of PECS training is high ($330).
session/item or Ongoing costs are low.
week

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What is the Picture Exchange Communication System?

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a way for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
to communicate without relying on speech. To communicate, people use cards with pictures, symbols, words or
photographs that represent tasks, actions or objects.

Who is the Picture Exchange Communication System for?

Anyone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can use the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).
Theres no age limit, but research has focused on children. This therapy is also suitable for anyone who has a
problem with spoken language, including people with developmental delay and traumatic brain injury.

What is the Picture Exchange Communication System used for?

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) gives people without spoken language or with limited
spoken language skills an alternative way to communicate. PECS can also increase peoples communication
skills for example, people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can learn to use the cards to ask for what they
need, make comments and answer other peoples questions.

Where does the Picture Exchange Communication System come from?

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) was developed in the United States in 1985, as part of

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the Delaware Autism Program. Its based on the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA).

What is the idea behind the Picture Exchange Communication System?

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is based on the idea that learning happens because of
the consequences of a particular behaviour and the events that lead up to it. If a behaviour leads to something
people want, the behaviour will keep happening. If the behaviour doesnt result in what people want, its unlikely
to happen again.

In PECS, when children appropriate cards, theyre rewarded with the desired objects or actions. Supporters of
PECS say that this reinforces childrens behaviour. In turn, it increases the likelihood that children will keep
using the cards for communicating needs and desires.

What does the Picture Exchange Communication System involve?

Because its a method of communication, PECS is taught and used on a daily basis.

To begin with, a childs preferences for things like food and toys are identified. The child is then taught to
exchange pictures of these items for the actual items.

Later on, the child can use the cards to make requests, to ask and answer questions, or to do more advanced
tasks like making comments. The child moves from exchanging single cards to learning to build short sentences
using several cards at a time.

Cost considerations

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) training workshops are available through Pyramid
Educational Consultants.

In 2016, the two-day PECS basic training workshop costs $660 for professionals and $400 for parents. The
workshop fee includes a copy of the PECS Training Manual with Data Forms CD, which contains information to
guide parents and practitioners implementing the system.

You can buy resources for creating PECS cards from Pyramid Educational Consultants. There are also some
free resources online.

Some families are taught to use PECS in speech pathology sessions or at school by speech pathologists or
teachers who have been trained in PECS.

Does the Picture Exchange Communication System work?

Research has shown positive effects from the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), but more
high-quality studies are needed.

There have been some concerns that the use of PECs can stop speech from developing, but theres no
evidence that this is true.

Who practises the Picture Exchange Communication System?

Many speech pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists, physiotherapists, social workers, parents and
teachers have been trained in PECS. When youre making an appointment with a new professional, you can
ask whether the professional has experience with PECS.

Parent education, training, support and involvement

If youre interested in using the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) with your child, its
recommended that you do a two-day PECS basic workshop before beginning PECS. Even if youre taking your
child to a professional to learn PECS, youre still encouraged to do the training so you can do PECS with your
child at home.

After completing this training, you can often do PECS at home independently. You can get more training and
support if you need it.

You can expand the PECS card library that youre using as your childs needs and interests develop.

Where can you find a PECS practitioner?

Pyramid Educational Consultants is the only organisation certified to train people in the Picture Exchange
Communication System (PECS). To find a certified PECS practitioner or to find out about training for yourself,
contact Pyramid Educational Consultants.

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You could also talk about PECS with your NDIA planner, NDIS early childhood partner or NDIS local area
coordination partner, if you have one.

There are many treatments for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They range from those based on
behaviour and development to those based on medicine or alternative therapy. Our article on
types of interventions for children with ASD takes you through the main treatments, so you can
better understand your childs options.

Rated (46) ratings

More to explore Web links


Testing interventions for autism spectrum disorder Do2Learn Free printable picture cards
Therapy hours: how many are enough for autism
spectrum disorder?
Language development: children with ASD
Helping children with ASD communicate:
augmentative communication

Last updated or reviewed


25-11-2016

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