Our experience with PECs

By | July 17, 2012

When D was diagnosed at age 4.5 years old, we were aware that her speech was stilted and therefore speech & language skills were delayed.

The mainstream nursery she was in at the time adopted the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) with her with regard to the timetable at school (it took a further year and two attempts to get her a Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) and during that time she had a 1:1 teacher for 25 hours per week – basically the whole school day excluding break times & lunchtimes).

For those not aware of PECS, this is a form of alternative communication that uses pictures instead of words to help children communicate. For example, there could be a set of pictures with a child’s favourite items on (train, apple, drink etc) when the child wants an item, the child gives his/her care provider the relevant card and is then handed the item. This exchange reinforces communication. It can also be used to comment on things seen or heard in the environment – for example, an airplane flying overhead, and the card is then used – in children who are able to verbalise, the word could also be used as the card is passed from care provider to child.

In D’s case, she is verbal but her speech can become stilted with anxiety or during a meltdown and I use PECS symbols/charts to try and bring her back from her anxious place and to move forward from a situation.

We have PECS charts at home for the days of the week:


Strategy for coping when she gets cross/anxious (this does not always work, it depends on the severity of the anxiety):

The primary aim of the one above is to prevent her from self-harming, we have quite a few of those dotted around the house!

And a chart to try and alleviate anxiety when we are out:


We also have PECS symbols and a Velcro board which detail the evening routine but I don’t find these as effective with D as she is always fascinated by the little cut outs and ends up loosing them under her bed. Charts, attached to the wall, with symbols on, are a much better solution for us.

When she was younger we did try sticker charts, but again the appeal of small things that could be removed was a big appeal for her.

One wall of D’s classroom in her SN school is covered with PECS charts detailing the day/week/month, the weather, the timetable, the names of the children and the red/orange/green behaviour chart. It’s a very visual, positive reinforcement for the children as to the order of the day.

Thanks for reading, Jx

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