What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology is any kind of technology and/or tool that can be used to enhance the functional independence of a person with a disability. Often, for people with disabilities, accomplishing daily tasks such as communicating with others, going to school or work, or participating in activities can be a challenge. Assistive Technology (AT) devices are tools to help overcome those challenges and enable people living with disabilities to enhance and have access to a quality of life, that may otherwise not be known, and lead more independent lives.

Sunday

Picture Exchange Communication System

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a term I often hear people using any time they are talking about using pictures (such as Picture Communication Symbols, known as PCS, which the software program Boardmaker uses) in their classrooms to support students.

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a type of augmentative alternative communication (AAC) originally developed for children with autism. The primary purpose of PECS is to teach individuals to initiate communication. Individuals are taught to initiate by handing a picture to a communication partner in exchange for a desired item. 


There are so many misconception about PECS, so if you plan to dabble, take the time to learn a little more about this program. A video worth watching: A Clear Picture: The Use and Benefits of PECS.  "This video includes a synopsis of the six training phases of PECS®, a discussions of the myths and facts associated with PECS as well as an overview of the research related to PECS. Please note this video is an overview only and is not intended as a training workshop. "

So, Why learn and use PECS?

PECS allows individuals to communicate by using pictures instead of, or in conjunction with, speech. PECS provides a functional outlet of expression for individuals who otherwise have difficulty communicating. It is used to initiate conversation and to communicate wants or needs to another person. It may be used with young children but has also successfully been taught to adults with similar communication needs. 


How does PECS work?

After being taught the phase six system, an individual using PECS chooses a picture from a variety of pictures available then gives the picture to a communication partner. Knowing the individual's request, the partner can then provide the desired item or fulfill a desired need.

The six phases of PECS:

Phase I: To initiate communication
The individual sees a desired item. They are physically guided by a prompter to pick up a picture of that item from the table and place it into the communication partner's hand in exchange for the desired item. Physical guidance by the prompter is faded as soon as possible. This stage is best taught with 2 trainers. Watch 3 minute demonstration.

Phase II: To teach distance and persistence
A communication book is provided with one picture on the front of the book at a time. The individual is taught to locate their communication book and travel to the communication partner to exchange a picture for the desired object. Watch 3 minute demonstration.

Phase III: To discriminate between pictures or symbols
The individual is presented with a picture of a highly preferred item and a picture of a non-preferred item on the cover of their communication book. The individual exchanges a picture and receives the corresponding item. If the individual selects the preferred item then they are given the item with positive social reinforcement. If they exchange the undesirable item then an error correction sequence is introduced. Once the individual begins to discriminate between the items, correspondence checks are completed to ensure that the individual's actions correspond to their requests. Discrimination training continues by added multiple desired items and increasing the number of pictures on the front of the book. Watch 3 minute demonstration.

Phase IV: To begin using sentence structure
The individual is introduced to a new icon "I want" to begin teaching the individual to use a sentence starter. A sentence strip is added to the front of the communication book and the individual learns to build and exchange the phrase by attaching the "I want" picture to the strip, attaching the picture of the desired item to the strip, removing the strip, and exchanging the strip. The communication partner then turns the strip toward the individual with autism and reads the phrase and provides the individual with the desired item.

Watch this 30 second demonstration. 
 
Phase V: To answer a direct question
The individual is taught to answer the question, "What do you want?" Watch this 2:20 min. demonstration.

Phase VI: To begin to develop commenting
The individual learns to communicate more than just their wants and needs. They learn to comment about the environment. Icons such as "I see" and "I hear" are introduced one at a time on the communication board in a systematic fashion. 

PECS is a great way to introduce any non-verbal student to the power of language and to begin developing skills that can then be transferred over to the use of an Augmentative Alternative Communication system such as a icon book or an electronic device. 





The poster above may be purchased from PECS Canada On-line Store

Resources:

  • Do To Learn is worth exploring for many free and low cost supports.
  • Children with Specila Needs has a listing of PECS downloads of "pictures, photographs, and worksheets are provided for educational purposes... providing some of the basic/beginners pictures to help get you started implementing the picture exchange communication system."  
  • Grocery PECS is a small site that contains images to use to create your own PECS pages. Some images are free and other's are pay to use. Three sets of images are available: Grocery, Toys and DVD's. If you are looking for real photos - this is a great site.
  • Mrs. Riley's It's in the cards is a great website that makes creating PECS cards easy. You can upload your own photos, find pictures on the web, search the library of cards made by other users as well as 3000+ symbols, click and drag to your preferred template size, and print.  
  • PECS 4 Autism was developed by a parent of a child with autism. This site provides pre-made cards, boards and board-making materials. She has included immediate downloads with PayPal purchases, CDs, Games, Schedules and other interactive activities.
  • TACA is a site designed to support parents in their journey. They speak about PECS and share important information that they feel parents need to know.  
  • Trainland provides color pictures for this specific use.
Be sure to check out my Pinterest Board, "Visual Schedules Worth Seeing" and blog Posing, "Visual Schecules and Supports" for the next step in providing visual supports. For more resources with ready to use visuals, also explore the listing about Boardmaker on this blog.