PECS is a picture exchange system that is used to assist many children with developmental delays such as autism, Down’s Syndrome, and many others, and also children with hearing or speech impediments learn to communicate quickly and early http://www.polyxo.com/visualsupport/pecs.html. PECS can be used as single word systems to describe something a child wants and generalized over many situations. For instance, if a child has a trick or treat PECS symbol, that child can bring it from house to house in their neighborhood to ask for candy. PECS also assist children with making choices between two or more favored activities or items, and may also assist them in describing their feelings, by choosing a mood card such as a sad face, to describe how they are feeling. PECS can be purchased in many ways online, such as on the following site which uses the official PECS cards used by most schools http://www.pecs.com/ .
PECS started officially with a small company, “Pyramid Educational Projects” (listed on the previous link) and has grown to include any communication system that uses pictures. PECS is very beneficial to children who learn best through visual means, such as children on the Autism Spectrum http://autism.about.com/od/treatmentoptions/a/PECS.htm. PECS has been shown through some studies to improve social communication and behavior in multiple settings, showing that it can be easily internalized and generalized by children with autism. There have been some case studies that researched augmentive speech products and found that sign language was superior for children and adults in increasing verbalizations, however, PECS can also augment sign language, and neither is mutually exclusive. A case study has been done that also showed PECS to be superior to American Sign Language in language acquisition, which shows that further studies need to be done. Many other studies have been done that illustrate the effectiveness of using PECS to acquire language in children with autism and with other developmental and/or speech delays http://www.pecsaustralia.com/research.php. Since frustration with being able to describe one’s desires, feelings and/or needs can often result in behavioral problems, many of these studies also addressed the added benefit of better social interactions with others and less tantrums and problem behaviors of children after training with PECS.
PECS books and calendars can also be created by making them yourself, or by purchasing them. PECS systems and materials are expensive. The best free PECS that I have found to download are on the following site http://www.autistas.org/pecs.htm. The headings of the links and the web page are in Spanish but when you click on them to open up the pictures, you will find that the PECS are all in English, and there are quite a few of them, even to include a feelings page of PECS, and one on the weather. A weather page where a child can answer the question “What is the weather like today?” and fill it in with the appropriate PECS picture is also a fun and useful activity to do with a child.
Special Education Teachers who utilize PECS, claim that using the pictures with the written word on it (how most PECS cards appear), is beneficial for the reading process, for many students will remember the spelling of the word, after utilizing it numerous times for communication. More research should be done on this probable benefit of utilizing PECS with students. One preschool teacher uses PECS in her home daycare by putting a PECS picture on every item in her house which also includes the written word. Her three year old normal son learned to read at three years old, due in part to this well-planned learning environment. The last stage of PECS, according to speech therapists and teachers, is to get the student to fill in a sentence strip with a PECS card. This process could prove beneficial for future reading and writing in children.