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Hall School

a specialist college

for communication and interaction

PECS - Picture Exchange Communication System

How it all started...

PECS was originally developed with children with autistic spectrum disorder in mind, but is now used with children with a wide range of communication difficulties. 
It can be used to provide a communication system for children or to support their other communication aids.

People with autism and learning difficulties tend to be more visual learners, and a visual means of communication can help them to learn the process of communication. Picture symbols are one way of enhancing the spoken word.

pecs leaflet updated 23.pdf

Advantages of PECS include:

  • PECS is self-initiating, the student has control
  • It can be learnt  quickly 
  • It is functional, and can be used in everyday settings

PECS can also be used for making choices, and for visual structures.

What is PECS?

PECs is the exchange of a picture for a desired item, it aims to be a means of functional communication. It has six carefully constructed phases. 

First Phase - teaching the pupil to initiate communication. The pupil is taught to exchange a picture of a desired item with a teacher who immediately fulfils their request.

Second phase - pupil is taught to actively find someone to give a symbol to as a request and persistently attempt to gain attention. 

For the first two phases two adults are needed so that the child can be physically (not verbally) prompted to exchange the symbol, rather than grab the wanted item. 

Third phase - Next they are taught to discriminate between several symbols. PECs communication book is introduced and pupil taught to use the pages. 

Fourth phase - gradual introduction of sentences eg. “I want banana” and encouraging verbal speech. 

Fifth phase - aims to teach pupil to respond to requests using communication book and spontaneously request.

Sixth phase -  aims for student to spontaneously comment on the world around them and how they feel as well as saying what they want. 

Research shows that the use of PECS encourages the use of speech for many Students (Carpenter & Carlop-Christy 2000, Bondy & Frost 2001). 

At Hall School we use PECS with a number of children throughout the school.

Lily and Molly are NHS Speech and Language Therapists based at the school, they are involved in assessing how suitable PECS will be for our students. They also review how things are going and support our school staff.

If your child is learning PECS then it’s very likely they’ll begin training in small group or individual session, alongside this as many PECS exchanges as possible are encouraged throughout the day.

pecs what is pecs.pdf



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