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What is PECS - In-depth guide to PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System)

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What is PECS?
PECS stands for Picture Exchange Communications System. The materials used are picture symbols as the method of application to assist in developing speech. It will also aid in speech progression and help with communication with others. PECS have been used for all ages from preschoolers to adults with autism or special needs. It is used as a way of communication to supplement or replace speech for those who may have communication difficulty or impairments. It also initiates communication and allows individuals a way of alternative communication.

Developed in 1985 it has received worldwide recognition for focusing on helping people with developmental communication delays. It was created to help families, educators and resident care providers promote communication and learn the skills to develop speech to those in need. PECS is used and implemented in many social environments including the home, schools, and society.

Those who utilize PECS learn the skills to communicate their wants and needs to others. The procedures of training for PECS is taught by thoroughly using prompting and reinforcement strategies which will eventually lead to the individual being capable of communicating independently. In early phases verbal prompting is not used, therefore it allows for the user to build immediate initiation and will shun them from being dependent on prompting.

There are a total of six different phases of PECS. Each phase will further enhance the students communication skills. Phase I is used by teaching the student to show an item that may be desired by picture exchange to a dependent person in which in turn will immediately honor the request. Phase II is the same method as Phase I except for the student will then branch out using the picture cards in the community and with others such as peers. They will be taught to be more persistent communicators. Once this action is learned without being prompted, they would then move on to phase III. In this phase they would develop the skills to use more than one card at a time to request a desired item of their choice. The student will discriminate between pictures of what is favored or not favored and choose the appropriate picture of what is then really desired. In Phase IV the student will then be taught how to distinguish symbols and then construct a sentence beginning with "I want" followed by the picture of what is desired. The next step, Phase V, teaches the student to answer the question "What do you want?". Once the individual has accomplished these task the most advanced step of PECS, Phase VI, is for the student to be able to respond to both questions and comments. They will learn to construct sentences to answer questions and to spontaneously make a statement without being prompted. Furthermore, the student will learn to make their statements even more specific with color, size, shape, etc. such as "The Big Red Ball".

PECS has been proven to be a very effective way to improve communication skills for those who have speech impairments due to autism or disabilities. It is has been substantiated that PECS is easily learned by most students and is used by many families and educators to help those with difficulty communicating.
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