Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) in Pediatric ABA Therapy

Another day, another acronym in applied behavior analysis: PECS, or picture exchange communication system! For kiddos who are on the autism spectrum, communication and social skills can be a daily struggle at home and at school. Luckily, applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy provides many tools for building these critical communication and developmental skills.

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy is a method of intervention that examines the function of behaviors in order to build positive behaviors and resolve problematic behaviors. ABA therapy targets many different skills ranging from language and communication to social skills, using positive reinforcement to encourage behaviors.

PECS is a method that can be used to help children build expressive communication skills. In this system, children use cards with pictures and symbols to communicate with other people. Using PECS, children will have cards of different types of food and other essential items, which they will trade in to receive that item. For example, if a child wants to eat cereal for breakfast, they would trade in their card with the picture of a bowl of cereal.

Some children who use PECS do not have speech skills, so they use the PECS cards as an alternative to speech. However, some children who use PECS have developed some speech skills and will use PECS in addition to their speech.

This system is used in order to help children communicate their wants and needs, communicate information, develop social norms and skills, and create relationships. As children use the PECS system in ABA therapy, they will advance through six different phases. The first phrase begins with “How to Communicate” and ends with the sixth phase, “Commenting.”

If your child enjoys learning through interactive games or a tablet, PECS also has apps that you can use to make communication books. Click here if you are interested in learning more about PECS apps!

PECS can be extremely helpful in ABA therapy when children are still developing their speech and communication skills. After developing speech skills, children can expand upon these expressive communication skills and learn discrimination (both simple and conditional) and sentence structure skills, for example. Children will also learn to use descriptive vocabulary, such as adjectives, rather than using just simple nouns. Last, they will learn to request different items (express their needs or wants) and comment without prompting. PECS may not be a perfect solution for every child, but it can be a helpful tool to have in your ABA toolbox!

If you think your child could benefit from PECS or ABA therapy in Chicago, contact Chicago ABA Therapy! We provide a wide range of services including ABA therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and a therapeutic preschool program.

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Picture Exchange Communication System