PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System)

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is an augmentative communication system developed to help individuals quickly acquire a functional means of communication (Bondy and Frost, 1994). PECS is appropriate for individuals who do not use speech or who may speak with limited effectiveness: those who have articulation or motor planning difficulties, limited communication partners, lack of initiative in communication, etc.


PECS is especially successful if appropriately combined with elements of behaviour analysis. The manual offers many suggestions on assessing reinforcers, teaching strategies, fading prompts and other issues.

PECS at a glance

Phase I
Teaches students to initiate communication right from the start by exchanging a single picture for a highly desired item.


Phase II
Teaches students to be persistent communicators- to actively seek out their pictures and to travel to someone to make a request.


Phase III
Teaches students to discriminate pictures and to select the picture that represents the item they want.


Phase IV
Teaches students to use sentence structure to make a request in the form of “I want _____.”


Phase V
Teaches students to respond to the question “What do you want?”


Phase VI
Teaches students to comment about things in their environment both spontaneously and in response to a question.


Expanding Vocabulary
Teaches students to use attributes such as colours, shapes and sizes within their requests.


Information adapted from PECS materials, please refer to for more information.