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MODULE: Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
Learners with ASD may not use words the way most typically developing children do. In fact, impairment of communication skills is a core feature of autism spectrum disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Some learners with ASD do not use or have limited use of eye contact, vocalizations of any type, or gestures to communicate with others. Instead, learners with ASD sometimes learn and use other means (at times inappropriately) to gain the attention of others and to obtain desired objects/outcomes.
Early intervention is a well-established and supported practice (Thompson, 2007) and is critical for helping learners with ASD develop communication skills as early as possible. For learners who do not develop typical verbal and nonverbal communication skills, learning to express wants and needs can be challenging. Delays in developing these skills can cause frustration for both the learner and the team member and may lead to behavioral challenges. AAC systems such as PECS can be highly effective tools in helping to decrease challenging behaviors and increase the use of appropriate functional communication.