Tuesday, November 20, 2012

PECS: Organizing your Reinforcers

When I first started out, perhaps like many new SLPs, I was using picture symbols for just about everything.  I created communication books for lots of kids.  I taught the kids what to do with the book...without actually teaching them the foundations needed to use the book.

A few years ago, I found myself working in a classroom of students with severe special needs.  We all received a wonderful training from the district Assistive Technology specialist.  How many of you use the PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) by Lori Frost and Andy Bondy?

There is a ton of information on the web about PECS and the Six Phases of PECS.  If you're not familiar with PECS, this page gives you a great rundown of the six phases.  Today I'm going to give you a couple of tips on organizing reinforcers.

You probably are aware of the basic concepts of "Picture Exchange" - a student gives a picture in exchange for a desired object.  Bondy and Frost first suggest that you find reinforcers (motivating toys/objects specific to each child).  This may not be shocking, but in my reinforcer assessment, I found that most of the students in the class had similar "likes."  I found myself using the same toys:  pop-tubes, wind-up toys, books, squishy balls, vehicles, etc.

For easy portability, here's what I did with my reinforcers.  I got a snap-top tote (this is the shoe-box size):

Filled it with my reinforcers:

And attached the picture symbols to the lid of the box with Velcro:

I made two boxes with different toys/activities so I could rotate the boxes and decrease boredom (for myself and the kids).  I used a mix of Mayer Johnson PCS, Pics for PECS, and photographs.  Basically, I took photographs for objects for which I couldn't find a good picture symbol.

Now you're ready to start working on Phase 1, Step 1 (Fully Assisted Exchange)!  What are your thoughts on this?  Would you like more information on the PECS method? If there is interest, I can start a PECS series.

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