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The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) vs. American Sign Language (ASL)

9 blog avatar 1 The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) vs. American Sign Language (ASL)
Expert Name:  Monisha Acharya-Lammert
Expert Title: Monisha Acharya-Lammert
Company Name:  Step By Step Academy
Company URL: www.stepbystepacademy.org
Short Bio: Monisha Acharya-Lammert is the Outreach Director at Step By Step Academy (SBSA) and has been serving children diagnosed with autism since 2001. 

In her role as Director, she delivers parent and staff trainings on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis(ABA), provides strategies on behavior management, as well as oversees and develops comprehensive behavior plans with the guidance of the Human Rights Committee. With guidance from the Executive Director at SBSA, she has established and supervised an Intensive Behavioral Intervention (IBI) classroom in the Morrow County area since August 2010.

Monisha was a home-based private consultant for five years before joining the Step by step team. She is continuing her education by preparing for the Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst certification under the direct supervision of a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) vs. American Sign Language (ASL)

The debate is out about which communication system is better. PECS or Sign Language.

Well, based on what the literature says, one is not better than the other. It all depends on what is appropriate and going to be functional for your child.

Here is what you should consider when deciding which system to use for your child.

1. Does my child have the fine motor capabilities to imitate various ASL signs?

2. Does my child have some verbalization where the PECS system would benefit simply as a supplemental aid?

3. Because of our ethnic background and the accent my child has, would the PECS system be more appropriate to aid as a way for others to understand him?

4. Since my child is completely non-verbal and lacks the fine motor capabilities to imitate, would the PECS system be more beneficial?

5. Can my child discriminate pictures if presented in front of him?

6. Does my child already have a few signs within his repertoire that is being utilized at home?

If these questions are too difficult for you to answer on your own, there are professionals who can help you. If your child is enrolled in Speech services, your SPL therapist can assist you with these questions. If your child is enrolled in a center for children diagnosed with autism, the directors and/or supervisors there could assist you as well. Regardless of which system you decide to go with, the most important thing to remember is that it needs to be functional for your child!

Functional Communication is a core deficit of autism, if your child cannot communicate functionally on his own, then it is your responsibility to teach your child a system that will allow him to be independently communicative.



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Being an RBT for me was extremely fun because where were you going to find a place where you can be completely silly without having to worry what people thought about you? This was the only job that made me feel like I could make a dramatic difference while being myself.

I also liked to be surrounded by people that had the same goals of wanting to help kids and the teamwork made the job much easier and more enjoyable.

Change and progress was the ultimate goal for our kiddos. The early intervention program was seriously only a miracle because I saw changes in the kiddos that from day one, you wouldn’t even recognize who they were.

Changes from being able to utter 3-4 words where they can only make a syllable from when they started, the behavior decreases in which kiddo that used to engage in 30-40 0 self-harm to only half, learning how to wait during games, table work where they use to swipe and drop to the floor if they had to.

My favorite was when the parents would tell us what amazing progress they were making at home. I used to tear up and felt for these parents so much because it was already difficult for them and now, they can trust and rely on ABA and the therapists knowing their goal was ours.

By Emma Rogers, BA, RBT

Mother Child
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