Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Special Education


Interdisciplinary and Inclusive Education


College of Education


Kuder, S. Jay


Picture Exchange Communication System; Autistic children--Education; Children with mental disabilities--Education (Preschool)


Special Education and Teaching


The Picture Exchange Communication System was designed to give children with autism, developmental disorders, and social-communication disorders a way to communicate with the world around them. It is a picture based communication device that puts emphasis on the child initiating interactions. PECS utilizes many behavioral teaching techniques such as shaping, fading, backward chaining, and delayed prompting to teach children to make requests and communicate with others.

Even with the emphasis on spontaneous interactions without the use of speech, verbal language is likely to develop as a secondary outcome for those children who have the ability to develop and use speech. Studies at the Delaware Autistic Program in Newark, Delaware have found that high percentages of preschool children who receive PECS intervention will develop verbal language, whether it be independent of PECS or in combination with it. Those children in the study that failed to develop speech fall within the severely to profoundly mentally retarded range of intellectual functioning.

This study was conducted to measure the impact of PECS on verbal language and stereotypical behaviors in preschool children with autism and developmental disorders. Two preschool classrooms at Gloucester County Special Services School District's Child Development Center were used for the study. A total of twelve children were observed to collect data on verbal language and stereotypic behavior.

The study found no consistent evidence that children who use PECS will experience an increase in verbal language or a decrease in stereotypic behavior. Although there is some evidence of an increase in verbal language over time, there are inconsistencies both between the subjects and the period of time that they were observed. Similar evidence and inconsistencies were found with decreases in stereotypic behavior. This is in part due to the nature of autism and inconsistencies in speech and behavior on a day to day basis.