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Picture Exchange Communication System

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a form of alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) that uses pictures instead of words to help children communicate. PECS was designed especially for children with autism who have delays in speech development.

When learning to use PECS, the child will be given a set of pictures of favorite foods or toys. When the child wants any of these items, he gives the picture to a communication partner (a parent, therapist, caregiver, or even another child). The communication partner then hands the child the food or toy. This exchange reinforces communication.

PECS can also be used to make comments about things seen or heard in the environment. For example, a child might see an airplane overhead, and hand a picture of an airplane to his or her parent. As the child begins to understand the usefulness of communication, the hope is that he will then begin to use natural speech.

The materials used in PECS are relatively inexpensive.

There are no known negative effects of PECS. Some parents have been concerned that their child will become dependent on PECS and not move on to develop natural speech. However, this view is not supported by research studies. In fact, there is evidence that children with autism who have learned to use PECS develop speech more quickly than those who have not been trained in PECS.

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