The Picture Exchange Communication System, or PECS, allows people with little or no communication abilities to communicate using pictures. People using PECS are taught to approach another person and give them a picture of a desired item in exchange for that item. By doing so, the person is able to initiate communication. A child or adult with autism can use PECS to communicate a request, a thought, or anything that can reasonably be displayed or symbolised on a picture card.
There are six phases of PECS and these are used throughout school. The decision to use this method of communication is decided in consultation with parents as it is important to use this both at home and at school to be as effective as possible.
The child learns to exchange single pictures for items or activities they really want.
PECS PHASE II: Distance and Persistence
Still using single pictures, the child learns to generalise this new skill by using it in different places, with different people and across distances. They are also taught to be more persistent communicators.
PECS PHASE III: Picture Discrimination
The child learns to select from two or more pictures to ask for their favourite things. These are placed in a communication book, a ring binder with Velcro strips where pictures are stored and easily removed for communication.
PECS PHASE IV: Sentence Structure
The child learns to construct simple sentences on a detachable sentence strip using an "I want" picture followed by a picture of the item being requested.
PECS PHASE V: Answering Questions
The child learns to use PECS to answer the question, "What do you want?"
PECS PHASE VI: Commenting
The child is taught to comment in response to questions such as, What do you see?, What do you hear? and What is it? They learn to make up sentences starting with I see, I hear, I feel, It is a, etc.