Using PECS to Teach Your Autistic Child to Read

By Janessa

If you would like to teach your autistic child how to read, the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a good system to use. PECS makes use of pictures and images to teach your child to communicate with others. In this system, you will provide your child with a couple of images that he can use to tell you what he wants. For example, if your child wants a glass of water, you need to teach him that giving you a picture of the glass of water will help you understand that he needs a glass of water. Let him know that the pictures and images which you have given him will help him convey what he wants to tell you.

As he becomes more comfortable in using PECS, it would be a good idea to incorporate words with the images to teach him certain sight words. For example, if you have a picture of a glass of water, you can write the word “water” under the image to help him associate the word with the image. You can do this for all the images and photos that you have for PECS.

As your child familiarizes himself with the words, you can gradually separate the words from the image. You can do this by either cutting off the word from the image or you can create a separate word card. To allow him to further master the word, encourage him to alternately hand you the word card instead of the picture card until he knows the word by heart.

Do not overwhelm your child by adding too many words to his repertoire. You do not want to confuse him. While you want to encourage him to learn by keeping the process challenging, adding too many words may end up discouraging him. It is ideal that you allow your child to master three to five words at a time. Only add words when you see that he has mastered the words he is learning.

When you see your child has mastered a good amount of words, you can gradually teach him simple sentences. Always start with sentences which he would often need to use. Some examples would be, “I want water,” “I want to rest,” etc. Do the same process that you did with the words. Always keep it simple and avoid confusing your child by teaching them too many things at once.

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