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Autism, also known as autistic disorder, develops among children, who are under the age of three. The major characteristics of this disorder are impaired communication, problematic social interactions, repetitive behavior, and other forms of restricted interest. Many parents notice that their children have some delays with communication and regard these problems as the first signs of autism (Schwartz & Garfinkle, 1998).
Nowadays, there are many various autism treatments that are available, and this is why in order to pick out the only one system that is certainly helpful and effective, it turns out to be crucially important to investigate autism, take into consideration its symptoms, consider the conditions, a family of a child with autism lives under, and try to identify the causes of this disorder correctly.
The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is one of augmentative and alternative communication systems that are aimed at minimizing difficulties connected to communications of people with autism disorders.
The peculiar features of this system are low costs, absence of too complicated movements, and ability to take this kind of treatment quickly. Treatment of autism with the use of the Picture Exchange Communication System has many positive outcomes, which make this method really effective and widely-spread among the representatives of different countries, because even children with serious communication delays get a chance to work on their problems and improve their interpersonal communications.
Autism as a Problem to Deal with
The vast majority of children, suffering from autism, are characterized by “delayed speech and language skills” (Charlop-Christy et al., 2002, p. 213). Numerous investigations, which are aimed at studying autism and the problems, impaired children face with, prove that many issues have to be taken into consideration simultaneously.
Communication strategies have to be developed regarding such points like non-vocal communication, sign language, electronic devices, which may help to comprehend information, and symbol systems, which are used to store information or share it with the others (Schwartz & Garfinkle, 2008).
Parents, who notice that their child/children have some problems with communication or even explanation of some words or sounds, should not be afraid of some incurable disease that cursed their child/children. It is just one of the forms of disorder that is inherent to humans and may be improved within some period of time. Augmentative and alternative communication systems are usually used in order to improve communication deficits, children diagnosed with autism disorder may have (Ganz & Simpson, 2004).
There are lots of types of this communication system that may be used with children, who have autism, and one of them is the Picture Exchange Communication System that is characterized by a proper picture base and the ability to find out the necessary approach to any child in order to identify his/her problem, contact to him/her, and help to improve the disorder under consideration.
Picture Exchange Communication System as an effective treatment
The Picture Exchange Communication System, abbreviated like PECS, is one of those systems that can help children, increase their interactions, and provide them with the necessary information of how to control environment they live in (Marckel, Neef, & Ferreri, 2006).
As a rule, PECS is used with preschool children or the representative of the elementary schools, who have severe disabilities and difficulties with communication. The researches have already proved that children with autism and their disabilities are deprived of a chance to interact effectively, to demonstrate their attitude to the changes around, and to influence the development of the events, connected to their lives (Schwartz & Garfinkle, 1998).
The system under consideration may be interesting for many reasons, and one of the brightest is the ability to use this system without long prerequisite behaviors.
PECS is grounded on child initiation: children choose items important for communication and receive the chosen items during the whole act of communication. Another significant point, that makes the Picture Exchange Communication System interesting, effective, and widely-used, is the children’s possibility to use as many items and communicative partners as possible in various settings.
This general description of the treatment of autism by means of the Picture Exchange Communication System shows that this system may be not only effective and successful but also interesting and captivating for children. And child interest usually plays a significant role in any kind of treatment because it allows to achieve some kind of success for sure.
Features of PECS
There are three main features of the Picture Exchange Communication System that have to be mentioned. First of all, PECS does not require too much time for its conduction. In comparison to many other speech programs, where the stages of eye contact or skills development become crucial, the Picture Exchange Communication System does not takes months or even weeks.
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Instructors try to teach the necessary social approach that has to be used to another individual, explain all the necessary material briefly, and provide children with a chance to develop their communications independently. This idea of PECS protocol attracts attention of many parents, because they truly believe that even disable children have to have the right for independent work and for support to start individual processes. Another important fact about this system is its costs.
The vast majority of people face troubles when they find out how much money has to be spent immediately. This is why the Picture Exchange Communication System may be more attractive because of its low costs: people always want to choose some benefits from any activity, and if they get a chance to provide their children with cheap but still effective treatment, they use it.
Finally, the system under analysis is rather simple according to its structure: it is not necessary for a child under treatment to be aware of such additional issues like sign language or obligatory electronic devices. In this case, children are concentrated on their communications and the problems, which prevent them against correct interactions.
Human experience with PECS
The investigations, conducted by Ganz, Charlop, Kravits, and Schwartz, were aimed at checking the effectiveness of the Picture Exchange Communication System. The participants of their investigations were disable children under the age of 7. Some of the investigations took place at children’s homes, making use of domestic native environment and familiar things (Marckel et al. 2004), and sometimes, unfamiliar settings encourage children to use their initiation in order to achieve some success in own activity (Kravits et al. 2002).
Almost each training with a child, suffered from autism, has to be supported by additional conversations with child’s parents and teachers in order to find out what themes may be more interesting to this particular child, which things may distract him/her, and what surrounding is better to conduct this particular treatment.
It is obligatory to create a list of words, which have to be familiar to a child, with all the necessary explanations, which may help to get better understanding of an issue. If the instructor fails to take into account these issues, it is quite possible to face challenges during the treatment itself or during making conclusions and introducing the outcomes.
It is also crucially important to remember for parents and teachers to be aware of the main behavioral techniques in order to support children outside the system. When a child feels some kind of support everywhere and still has a chance to act independently, considering own interests and opportunities, the results of such treatment are more effective and helpful for bother children and their families.
Outcomes of Picture Exchange Communication System
If all conditions of autism treatment are met, and a child demonstrates own interest in the offered activities, the outcomes cannot be disappointing. Autism is usually characterized as a disorder of children, who has not achieved the age of three, that is able to develop during some period of time.
Usually, autism has a genetic basis, and its treatment has to touch upon numerous issues connected to family relations, communication, and principles. People, who are eager to help disable children and improve their interpersonal communication, may face numerous challenges, this is why it is better to be prepared, to evaluate the whole situation, and to use even some theoretical knowledge to take each step properly.
The outcomes of the work of the Picture Exchange Communication System should satisfy parents and instructors, because within a short period of time, some improvements can be already observed: spontaneous speech may be increased and imitation may occur from time to time.
The process of recovery may be hurtful for a child: his/her fellows may not comprehend the essence of the process and continue making jokes over child’s disability, a child may be not ready to some inner changes and even be afraid of them. This is why the role of parents becomes crucial as never before. To support, to explain, and to assist – these are the main functions of any parent, who wants his/her child being treated.
Autism is current problem for many children and their families. Sometimes, the signs of autism can be hardly noticeable on its early stages, this is why parents do not pay much attention to child inability to communicate with other children or to comprehend information on a proper level.
Augmentative communication systems (AACs) aim at helping nonverbal children develop their communication skills and interact with other children. The Picture Exchange Communication System is the best representative of AACs to encourage children’s language, show them the necessary way to start communicating, and not spend much money on such treatment. Our modern world is full of speculation, corruption, and inability to pick out good and effective treatment for low costs.
The Picture Exchange Communication System is that very exception of the rules that proves that people still have a chance to help children and to develop reliable technologies. Treatment of autism is a significant theme to evaluate and improve, and the Picture Exchange Communication System is a good point to start with, because the outcomes of this kind of treatment are really helpful to children of any age and with any surroundings.
Charlop-Christy, M. H., Carpenter, M., Le, L., LeBlanc, L. A., & Kellet, K. (2002, Fall). Using the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) with Children with Autism: Assessment of PECS Acquisition, Speech, Social-Communicative Behavior, and Problem Behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 35(3), 213-231.
Ganz, J. B. & Simpson, R. L. (2004, August). Effects on Communicative Requesting and Speech Development of the Picture Exchange Communication System in Children with Characteristics of Autism. Journal of Autism and Development Disorders, 34(4), 395-409.
Kravits, T. R., Kamps, D. M., Kemmerer, K., & Potucek, J. (2002, June). Brief Report: Increasing Communication Skills for an Elementary-Aged Student with Autism Using the Picture Exchange Communication System. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32(3), 225-230.
Marckel, J. M., Neef, N. A., & Ferreri, S, J. (2004, Spring). A Preliminary Analysis of Teaching Improvisation with the Picture Exchange Communication System to Children with Autism. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 39(1), 109-115.
Schwartz, I. S. & Garfinkle, A. N. (1998, Fall). The Picture Exchange Communication System: Communicative Outcomes for Young Children with Disabilities. Topics in Early Childhood Education, 18(3), 144.