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by Andy Bondy & Lori Frost
Most young children with autism have significant delays in acquiring communication skills, a hallmark characteristic of autism. But with intensive early intervention and Applied Behavior Analysis techniques, children can be taught how to communicate successfully, even before they acquire the ability to use speech.
A Picture’s Worth examines the value of non-verbal communication strategies for children with autism, and presents the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) in detail. PECS is a communication system that allows a child to use a picture (or series of pictures) to express his needs and desires without a prompt or cue from another person. Authors Bondy and Frost co-developed PECS during many years of experience working with children with autism, and now share their expertise in this easy-to-understand guide for parents.
After a thorough review of verbal communication development, A Picture’s Worth explains how autism affects the acquisition and progression of those skills. Without the ability to express themselves, children with autism experience a high level of frustration, which is the root cause of many undesirable behaviors. The book explores the relationship between behavior and communication, teaching parents how to recognize patterns in their own child’s behavior and when to begin a visual communication program such as PECS.
The authors recommend that parents teach PECS in a succession of six phases. Each phase builds on the previous one, until a child is capable of constructing sentences with pictures to make requests and comments about his surroundings. The book provides many real-life case studies, along with a series of lessons, from beginning to more advanced PECS techniques.
There is no minimum age or cognitive level required for a child to begin learning PECS. While PECS is frequently used with children who are non-verbal, it has been used effectively with kids who speak, but do not initiate communication. And contrary to many parents concerns, PECS does not inhibit a child’s ability to acquire and use speech. A Picture’s Worth promises the opportunity for most children with autism to acquire meaningful and effective communication skills.
About the authors: Andy Bondy, Ph.D. has over 30 years experience working with children and adults with autism and developmental disabilities. Lori A. Frost, M.S., CCC/SLP is a certified speech-language pathologist with extensive experience helping children with limited speech and challenging behavior. Dr. Bondy and Ms. Frost are co-developers of the Picture Exchange Communication System and co-founders of Pyramid Educational Consultants.