Teaching adults with intellectual disabilities to use the Picture Exchange Communication System

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Rogers, Michael A.
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The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is an alternative augmentative communication system that uses a variety of behavioural techniques to teach nonspeaking individuals functional communication skills. Ten empirical evaluations of PECS have been reported in the literature since it was developed, many of which have considerable weaknesses such as lack of a baseline assessment of using PECS, lack of relevant discrimination skills of the participants, and a lack of treatment integrity measures. The purpose of this study was to provide further empirical data regarding the efficacy of PECS with adults with severe intellectual disabilities. During initial baseline assessments of three participants, all three demonstrated some of the skills required for PECS (e.g., removing a picture from a binder and giving it to the experimenter). However, none of the participants were able to reliably select the food item that corresponded to the picture they had selected. Therefore, training for this skill was provided in a modified multiple-baseline design across participants. Participants 1 and 2 met mastery criterion after considerable training using individualized fading programs. Participant 3 showed an overall improvement across baseline assessments and therefore training was not implemented. Correspondence between picture and subsequent item selection is an important component of PECS and results of this study suggest that this skill may require extensive training for some persons with severe intellectual disabilities. Baseline discrimination skills that could significantly impact learning efficiency and future research are discussed.
PECS, Disabilities