Posted by: bwoof | June 13, 2010


Students with autism (note it’s incorrect to say autistic students) will often have PECS on their IEP (Individual Education Plan) as one method of many designed to increase communication skills.

I confess, I didn’t know until today what PECS stands for but after seeing the acronym again, decided it’s high time to learn what it means.

And, I learned that I see PECS in action all the time, but never knew that it’s a formal term meaning Picture Exchange Communication System. At it’s most basic form it’s a system which allows a student with autism to select a picture to express a message. For example, a student might point to a photo of his own lunch bag to indicate that he wants food. Or another might take a velcro-backed and laminated diagram of a toilet and stick it to a fuzzy fabric in order to let the teacher know that she wants to visit the bathroom.

As a student develops more complex skills, pictures can be stuck together in ‘sentences’, even if the student is non-verbal.

PECS can be easier to learn than traditional sign language which requires dexterity and specific subtle motions. However, some folks think that PECS is  not as good for developing common speech and may even impede language development.

I personally, based on significant observation for three years in a self-contained classroom for students with autism, think that PECS works and fosters a basic human need to communicate with others in a variety of languages. For students who have no ‘voice’ I would always want to err on the side of bringing them into connections with others regardless of their ability to speak words.

Learning about autism and working with those in the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is humbling for sure. I cannot say enough about people who choose this field for their full-time work. Amazing!

Grateful for:

  • J and the Y
  • people in leadership who understand the complexities, challenges, and even disappointments of vast organizational change

Curious about:

  • how will the World Cup games affect learning at school this week? Will Serbia, after having lost today, be able to catch up and beat Germany? Note: almost my entire school will be asking this same question.

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