PECS - Picture Exchange Communication System

What is PECS?

PECS stands for Picture Exchange Communication System and was developed specifically as a communication tool for non verbal children with Autism Spectrum Conditions. Although this system was designed for use with ASC’s it has been successful in supporting individuals with a wide range of learning and physically disabilities.


Communication Cards

One of the major benefits of the PECS system is that it is a picture based communication system, which utilises everyday images. These images are unambiguous and universally known which means that this communication method is easily transferable between the home and education settings. This ensures that there is inherently a high level of consistency in this communication method.


Where PECS differs from other communication methods, is that it supports the individual to initiate the interaction, as opposed to being asked questions. This allows the individual to develop spontaneous communication.


How does PECS work?

The PECS system of communication is 6 phase process and is works as follows;

Phase 1 - How to Communicate

This initial stage requires the individual to begin to initiate communication by using a single image of a desired item. The individual is supported to present a single image to the trainer sitting close. Support is gradually withdrawn until the individual manages independently.


Phase 2 - Distance and Persistence

The image is now placed on a board away from the individual and the distance between the individual and the trainer is gradually increased.


Phase 3 - Discrimination Between Symbols

Communication Board

More images are incrementally placed on the board requiring the individual to select a desired item. It is again presented to the trainer and positive reinforcement is provided.

Phase 4 - Using Phrases

During this phase simple sentence structure is introduced. The individual initially uses the image “I want” followed by an image of the desired item.

Phase 5 - Answering a Direct Question

The individual uses the images they have learned to answer the question “What do you want?” 

Phase 6 - Commenting

The cumultive effect of these phases, in conjunction with an ever increasing number of known images, means that an individual can comment on things around them rather than just requesting items. This creates the foundation for more complicated communication, such as “What do you see?”, “What do you hear?”.

Eventually this method of communication can help to communicate abstract issues like, “What do you like?” and “How do you feel?”.

Does PECS work?

PECS is a very positive and rewarding process and research suggests that it is a very useful tool in helping individuals with communication issue express themselves. Parents and carers are fundamental in the successful of this process, enjoying the involvement it gives them in helping their child communicate more effectively.

How can we help?

The Practice MK has a specialist Speech and Language Therapy Department, trained and experienced in implementing and using the PECS system. Following the successful implementation of the process our therapists can provide ongoing advice and support to ensure the best possible outcomes for each child.

The Practice MK is also able to offer autism specific, psychological support. As well as Counselling, Coaching and Mentoring to you and your family.