When I first heard about PECS, the Picture Exchange Communication System, I was a little skeptical. I didn’t think Roman would pick it up very quickly, if at all. It is supposed to help non-verbal people communicate their wants and needs through a picture system. I thought Roman was bound to get frustrated with the process of picking out a picture and handing it to someone to get what he wanted. But I underestimated my boy.
The draw of food is too strong for Roman not to pick up PECS. At first, that’s how he learned to use the system. When he was in the Early On program, they introduced PECS to him at snack time during his twice weekly classes. Within a few sessions, he was requesting his gluten free cookies with ease. Once he had down the process of handing the picture of his cookies to the teacher to get what he wanted, they moved on to discrimination. He aced that too. His teacher would put down a picture of his cookies next to one of, say, a sock. It took him just a few tries to understand that he would get a sock if he handed over the picture of the sock. You can’t eat socks! If there was one thing Roman knew it was what was edible and what wasn’t.
Now, Roman is advanced in his use of PECS, thanks to both the Early On program and the Early Childhood Special Education program he has graduated into. He has a full time aide that works with Roman on his PECS constantly. There is also a speech therapist that teaches him new levels of PECS. He is on to the sentence structure level of PECS. When he wants something, not only does he request it through the picture of the item he wants, he also has a picture that means “I want”. He uses the “I want” picture in front of what he wants to make a sentence.
This system has decreased the frustration level, both for Roman and for the rest of the family. Even Tycen and Tanis are learning to work with Roman and his PECS book. They love to watch him pick out what he really wants. It’s so amazing to watch.
PECS is truly a lifesaver for non-verbal children. If you have a non-verbal child or a child that is partially verbal but has a hard time explaining what he or she wants, check out this article. PECS can be done easily by parents at home. All you need is a three ring binder, pictures, velcro and a way to laminate the pictures.