Skip to main content

Gadgets & Gizmos - Part 5: PECS

When Ben was three, we started using a Picture Exchange Communication System or PECS. It is a system used widely with children with Autism. Ben has not been diagnosed with Autism, but we still find it quite useful.

PECS is a augmentative and alternative communication device, used by people with special needs. It involves using pictures and symbols to communicate needs and wants. A longer and more in depth definition and history of PECS can be found at this Wikipedia site.

To start, you need a large three-ring binder (about 3 inches wide), rolls of Velcro (more than you expect), hard plastic dividers, access to laminating machine or self-laminating sheets, scissors and camera.

We use the following categories within the PECS book:
  • Food
  • Daily Activities
  • Toys
  • Outdoor Activities
  • Places
  • People
  • Media (DVDs, books, music)
  • Self-Help Activities
The categories help us find the photos fast and return them to their correct location for use the next time. It will also help you to determine what pictures you may need.

Next, make a list of the items to photograph, find in Boardmaker or on the internet. I started with over 75 pictures and have added and deleted people, toys and foods over the years. As you can see, I mostly used real photos because Ben tends to understand them better than cartoon or drawn pictures.

The page below is in the "Food" category:

It is not often that we would allow Ben to see all these choices. Most likely it would be overwhelming for him. Typically we give him 2-3 choices.

This is the "Toy" page:

These are "Self-Help Activities:"

On the back of the book are two Velcro lines for choices. The photos of the two options are placed on the Velcro. Ben chooses which one he is interested in doing next - do a puzzle or read a book.

The front of Ben's PECS book has one Velcro line on it. It is used for letting him know the schedule. We try not to put more than three-four activities on at a time. The schedule below shows him using the potty, eating pancakes for breakfast and then brushing his teeth.

Resources for free pictures:
Beyond Autism PECS
Toy & Grocery PECS
Picture Symbols

We try to get all the therapists to use this form of communication with him. Sometimes we use the actual objects for Ben to make a choice rather than the picture. And then sometimes we get lazy with the whole system. I realize that giving Ben choices throughout his day allows for him to have control over what he is doing, wearing and eating.  Giving him power to choose what he likes makes him a happier individual. Assuming we know what he wants only leads to frustration and aggravation. In the end I know this is what he needs to become a more independent person.

If you need any assistance getting started, I would be happy to answer any questions.

Disclaimer: The equipment and tools I talk about in "Gadgets & Gizmos" is not sponsored by any company. This is not an advertisement for any product.


Post a Comment

Thank you for reading my post. I appreciate you taking the time to comment. If you wish to contact me directly, please let me know and I will email you.

Popular posts from this blog

Catching up with Ben

  I wish I had more time to write on eSpeciallyBen . Ben teaches us lessons on a regular basis: Smile often, give hugs, sit down and savor the moment, grab someone's hand to let them know you care and laugh with abandon–even if it annoys your brother. Ben will be 18 this summer. He attends high school in-person and enjoys seeing his classmates and teachers each day. In the photo above, it's 6 a.m. and he's can't wait to get on the bus. As for most people, the pandemic has been tough. Ben's in-person activities, camps and programs were canceled. He's happy to see grandma when we met on a Charlotte greenway or park. Ben seeks out social interactions and being quarantined away from friends and family was even more difficult because he didn't understand why. Ben's teacher sends me photos of him throughout the week. They just finished a rousing game of catch here.  Thank you for following eSpeciallyBen. If you want to see what I'm working on now, find me

A Lesson on Supplemental Security Income

In October, I received a letter from Social Security Administration saying that Ben no longer qualified for SSI AND we owed a very large over payment for two years of SSI that Ben did receive. The letter showed that we owned two of the same car. I knew this was wrong and immediately wrote a letter. I thought it was a computer glitch. Over the past five months, I have met with Social Security, spoke with several people over the phone and wrote countless letters providing documentation to show the cars we actually owned and filed appeals for the decision to revoke Ben's SSI during the two year period they think we owned these two cars. Tomorrow I have another meeting. I am hoping we can get this straightened out. This situation has caused a lot of stress for us and has taken a tremendous amount of our time trying to unravel the problem. I have not written a post in almost a month, partially because my brain power has been consumed with this issue and the bathroom saga (qualifies

Parenting an Adult Child with Disabilities: Talking About the Future

Ben in the middle with Dad (left), Carla Payne with Aging Care Matters and Mom This is the first of several posts about parenting an adult child with a disability. Ben will be 19 this summer; I am learning along the way. As always, I hope to pass on resources and wisdom. Discuss the future.  If your adult child is able to participate in planning for their future, ask them how they envision it. Let them draw a picture. Ask them to tell you a story. Maybe they can sign a few words that mean a lot to them. Find a way to get them involved. How do they see themselves living? By themselves, in a group home, with another family or with a sibling? Where do they want to live? In another city, in an apartment, in a house? How far away do they want to live from family? What level of independence can they handle? Do they want someone to check in on them? Do they want to find a job? Do they need a job coach or supportive employment? Who will help them with their finances? Is there someone they tru