PECS: Phase 3 and Phase 4

a blog post on PECS phase 3 and 4

*Every person learns differently, so what works for one person, may not work for another. PECS is one option for someone who has limited or no communication skills. This post is for information purposes. There are other communication strategies available, so always seek professional advice from an educational provider/a speech therapist to know what works best.

In last week’s post: Picture Exchange Communication System, I shared my experiences of using PECS and from my understanding, explained Phase 1 and Phase 2 (personal view).

In this post, I will be explaining Phase 3 and Phase 4.

Phase 3

Phase three looks at picture discrimination. For this phase, you will need a PECS Communication Book.

You can either purchase one or make one at home. I have created an example of one I made using a purple folder, some card and Velcro.

creating a PECS communication book
Communication Book Made At Home

I took some photos of the items, printed them off, laminated and then cut them out. I then added some Velcro onto the back of the pictures.

Motivating Items

If you are working with one child/young person, it is easier to create photo imagery of items they use in their environment. (motivating items/activities) This makes the images more personal and relatable to them.

It is not always practical on a larger scale to take photographs, so using pictures/cartoon images that you can locate online also works just fine.

Displaying the text below the image is good because you can see the word related to the image:

Image with text below
image with text below

You are looking for the person to be able to distinguish the difference between the pictures. So, if they see an item that they would like to play with, you present them two images, one being the item of choice. If they select the correct picture for the item, then you hand it over to them. The idea is to start off with two images and then gradually increase the selection of images over time.

From previous experience as a learning support assistant, I found it handy to create a table. I did this to keep a record of what items were chosen the most and to record additional information.

The table below shows an example of notes that you can record:

Table One: PECS Record Example

Name of child/young person: Child A

PECS table

The type of things that you can write in the comments section are:

  • Location – indoors/outdoors, at school/home
  • Time of the day
  • Noisy/quiet environment
  • Any prompting? – verbal/ eye contact/ child initiated
  • How many adults participated

I also found it handy to include if the person was not motivated/why they weren’t interested (e.g. not feeling well).

Making a note of these details made it easier for me to identify if a person was more motivated and engaging in one environment compared to another. I could also see if a motivating item was not beneficial. Like in Table One, I can see that the puzzle has not been selected much so I would replace this with another motivating item/activity.

Phase 4

Phase 4 focuses on sentence structure. So, at the bottom of your communication book will be a sentence strip.

sentence strip

The idea is for the person to select the images and place them onto the strip to make up the sentence:

I want bubbles”,

or whatever item they choose.

I want image
I Want Bubbles

You can get pictures that show “I want” separately or together on one image. Personally, I don’t think it really matters. I would go with whichever one the person prefers best.

I have used an image of myself with the word “I” underneath.

If you are using photo imagery, then that photo will be of the person you are doing the activity with.

I know there’s a lot in this post to take in, but I hope that it helps.

Here is a free table template that I created to record your PECS activity on:

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