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How to Use the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

What are PECS?


The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a system to assist people in communication who are unable to do so through speech. The system uses picture cards for communication. It is one method that a child with a severe speech disorder, ie; non verbal autism, can use to indicate his basic needs and wants. This reduces the child’s frustration and there social isolation.



PECS is a stepping stone to effective communication. Your child will learn that when he hands over a picture with clippers on it, he would like me to use the clippers, or I can inform them the clippers are coming. This builds a foundation for communication. Gradually, the child can learn to use the cards to string words and items together and form sentences, which lends itself to the development of verbal communication.


How to Use PECS


Step One


Work with the parents or guardians and speech-language therapist to teach the child how to use PECS. Begin working with cards that correspond to items in your shop, such as scissors. So the child has the scissors and they are not going to hurt them. Then they have to show you the card. After the child shows you the card, affirm his request by speaking it. Say, “Okay, Sam, you want me to use the scissors,” at which point you should show them the scissors.


Step Two


Give the child several cards with other tools or items on it. Move away from them, but stay in the same room. Remind them that if they want you to do or use something, they have to show you the right card. As the child begins to master the system, provide them with additional cards, along with a binder or ring to hold them.


Step Three


When the child appears completely comfortable with PECS, encourage them to begin to form the service. Even if the child cannot yet read, they can learn to associate the pictures with the meaning. Demonstrate that when they want a certain service, they must first show you the appropriate cards. Always confirm the child’s communication with your own words. Say, “Okay, Sam, you want two with clippers and scissors on top. Good job!”


As the child continues to progress with PECS, gradually add more tools and scenarios to their vocabulary and continue to encourage him to form a complete service. Gradually add cards that represent intangible things, such as the feeling cards to understand how they are feeling.


I've have developed some hair industry PECS cards, you can purchase these from:




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