Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is an invaluable resource, which can be used with children and young people with Autism Spectrum Conditions and other communication difficulties. PECS does not require complex or expensive materials and can easily be used in school, home or in the community.

What is PECS?

PECS is a type of Augmentative and Alternative Communication that uses visual symbols to teach the learner to communicate with parents, carers, teachers and peers. The aim is to teach intentional, functional communication and to allow users to communicate their wants and needs.

The PECS approach occurs in 6 phases.

Phase 1 – Teaches the user ‘How to communicate’

Phase 2 –  Teaches ‘Distance and persistence’

Phase 3 – Teaches ‘Picture Discrimination’ (although some users develop in Phases 1 & 2)

Phase 4 – Teaches the user to build a ‘Sentence structure’

The later stages include using ‘wait’ and ‘no’ with users and teaches attributes and additional vocabulary.


The exchange initially involves the user, a communication partner and a physical prompter. The physical prompter is required in the early stages, when teaching the exchange. However, as the user becomes more skilled there only needs to be a communication partner.

Who can PECS be used with?

PECS can be used with children and adults with a range of Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN).

It is frequently used with children and adults with Autism Spectrum Conditions and those who have little or no verbal communication.

Who can implement PECS?

PECS is a highly structured system and its effectiveness and efficacy is based on consistent use of the system. Almost anyone can implement PECs, however they need to receive PECS training. Professionals, parents, careers, teachers, siblings and peers have all learnt to effectively use PECS and value their role as a Communication Partner.

Our therapy team can advise you on how you can implement PECS in your home or setting.

When is PECS used?

At every possible opportunity! PECS becomes the users voice, and they should have access to the system at all times. PECS can be used anywhere; at home, school, and during community activities. PECS books are made portable so that they can be used frequently in a range of settings.

Why use PECS?

PECS is a well-known and researched communication system, and has enabled many user with little or no communication to express their needs and desires. PECS;

  • Helps develop intentional communication
  • Reduces negative or challenging behaviors caused by frustration
  • Increases opportunities for interaction and learning
  • Develops social skills and ability to build meaningful relationships
  • Improves Spoken Language skills

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