The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is an augmentative communication system developed to help individuals quickly acquire a functional means of communication (Bondy and Frost, 1994). PECS is appropriate for individuals who do not use speech or who may speak with limited effectiveness: those who have articulation or motor planning difficulties, limited communicative partners, lack of initiative in communication, etc.
In my experience, PECS has a number of advantages over other methods of addressing communication:
- Each exchange is clearly intentional and readily understood. When a child hands you a picture or sentence strip, the request or comment is quickly determined. The child is given an effective avenue for swiftly and easily meeting his needs.
- From the start, communication is initiated by the child. Children are not drilled in rote responses to specific phrases or instructions, rather they are encouraged to independently seek out communication partners in naturally occurring settings.
- Communication is meaningful and highly motivating. Reinforcement for communication is natural and strongly rewarding.
- Materials are cheap, easy to prepare, and portable. A PECS symbol can be as simple as a hand-drawn picture, or a snapshot.
- With PECS, the child has an essentially unlimited pool of potential communicative partners. Anyone willing to accept a picture is available, not just those who understand sign language or who are familiar enough with the child to understand him despite his articulation or motor planning difficulties. Children are able to generalize communication to a wide circle of people very quickly.