Using the picture exchange communication system (PECS) with children with autism: assessment of PECS acquisition, speech, social-communicative behavior, and problem behavior

J Appl Behav Anal. 2002 Fall;35(3):213-31. doi: 10.1901/jaba.2002.35-213.


The picture exchange communication system (PECS) is an augmentative communication system frequently used with children with autism (Bondy & Frost, 1994; Siegel, 2000; Yamall, 2000). Despite its common clinical use, no well-controlled empirical investigations have been conducted to test the effectiveness of PECS. Using a multiple baseline design, the present study examined the acquisition of PECS with 3 children with autism. In addition, the study examined the effects of PECS training on the emergence of speech in play and academic settings. Ancillary measures of social-communicative behaviors and problem behaviors were recorded. Results indicated that all 3 children met the learning criterion for PECS and showed concomitant increases in verbal speech. Ancillary gains were associated with increases in social-communicative behaviors and decreases in problem behaviors. The results are discussed in terms of the provision of empirical support for PECS as well as the concomitant positive side effects of its use.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / complications*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / etiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication Aids for Disabled*
  • Communication Disorders / etiology*
  • Communication Disorders / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Random Allocation
  • Speech*
  • Verbal Learning*