Program

Nov 07, 2007

OVERVIEW

The Picture
Exchange Communication System (PECS) seeks to improve the communication skills of
children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The program consists of
initial training and then follow-up visits from PECS consultants which demonstrate the
program materials to children. A randomized, experimental evaluation of
the program found that it was effective in increasing the rate of children’s
initiations to communication post-treatment. This impact however, was
short-lived. The program also had no impacts on rates of speech,
communication, reciprocal social interaction, or scores on standardized
language usage.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Elementary school-aged
children who have been diagnosed with autism or an autism spectrum disorder

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) was
developed for children who have been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
(ASD). The program consists of a trained PECS
consultant who attend classrooms several times per month during a school year
and demonstrate the PECS
program, which is a series of pictorial cards that children can use to initiate
communication with others. Teachers are also given a brief training
before the implementation of the program and are monitored by PECS consultants during the program.
They can ask questions and discuss problems with consultants as needed.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Howlin, P., Gordon, R.
K., Pasco, G.,
Wade, A., & Charman, T. (2007). The
effectiveness of Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) training for teachers of children with
autism: A pragmatic, group randomized controlled trial. Journal of
Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48
(5), 473-481.

Evaluated population: 84 elementary school
children ages 4-11 with autism or an autism spectrum disorder. These
students came from 38 schools in the greater London area which provided specialized
services for autism spectrum disorders.

Approach: The researchers identified schools which
provided services for children with autism spectrum disorders. 15 schools
were eventually selected and a total of 18 classrooms from these schools.
These classes were matched and then randomly assigned to conditions; treatment,
delayed treatment, and a no treatment control group. Children in the
treatment group received 6 visits per month for a total of 5 months. In
each visit, consultants demonstrated PECS
to students and monitored teachers’ progress with the program. The
delayed treatment condition received the same intervention in the next school
term. The control group received no intervention. All children in
the study were assessed at baseline, at the conclusion of the treatment group’s
program, and at the conclusion of the delayed treatment group’s program.

Results: Data were analyzed on an Intent-To-Treat
(ITT) basis except for one treatment classroom which withdrew from the study after
random assignment. There were some differences between groups at
baseline. Children in the delayed treatment group had higher levels of
language impairment than the treatment and control groups. Also, children
in the treatment group had higher levels of verbalization than those in the
delayed treatment group.

At follow-up, children in the treatment group were more
likely to have a higher initiation rate than those who had received no
training. The treatment effects were short-lived and by the second
follow-up period, when active intervention had ceased, children receiving the
early intervention no longer had higher initiation rates than the control
group. The program had no impacts on rates of speech, communication,
reciprocal social interaction, or scores on standardized language usage.

Note: Analyses were designed to adjust for the effect of
clustering within schools.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References

Howlin, P., Gordon, R. K., Pasco, G., Wade, A.,
& Charman, T. (2007). The effectiveness of
Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) training for teachers of children
with autism: A pragmatic, group randomized controlled trial. Journal
of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48
(5), 473-481.

Program curriculum is available for purchase and for
sample download at:
http://www.pecs.com/

KEYWORDS:  Autism
Spectrum Disorder, Autism, Skills Training, Elementary School, Early Childhood
(0-4), Middle Childhood (6-11), Children, Co-ed, Speech, Communication, Social
Interaction, Skills Training, Provider-Based, School-Based, Social/Emotional Health and
Development, Cognitive Development, Education, School Engagement.

Program information last updated 11/7/07

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