PECS stands for Picture Exchange Communication System

  • For the child to be able to spontaneously communicate to another person about something they want.

What does it involve?

  • It has six simple progressive stages for children to work through, starting with giving one symbol and moving up to making sentences.
  • It uses symbols for the item, which vary in size depending on the child’s abilities.
  • In the early stages of PECS the child is physically prompted by an adult to pick up the symbol and give it to another adult.  It is therefore important that the child can cope with physical contact and that they will not become too distressed by it.

How does it help children?

  • It gives children a way to communicate and express themselves to other people.
  • It helps children who are less willing to communicate realise the value of using other people to help them get what they want.
  • During PECS the child will hear the name of the object they want lots of times so it helps to increase their understanding.
  • The repetition and structure of PECS can encourage a child to speak.
  • It helps children become more independent.  They will be able to communicate with a variety of adults who they would not normally be able to communicate with e.g. people outside of the immediate family, more teachers at school.  Because PECS symbols have the words written under them, an adult who does not know the child (or cannot usually understand what the child wants) will be able to communicate with the child.

What do I need to do before starting PECS?

  • For PECS to work the child needs to be actively seeking something that they want, e.g. will they reach for something that they want if you hold it in front of them?  This can be a favourite food or toy.
  • It is useful to make a list of things the child does reach for so that you can make the symbols for these things in advance.
  • The first stages of PECS need two people to set up, so it may be useful to think ahead to ensure that there are two people available when you are ready to start.