The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is typically used with people who have communicative disorders. People who are nonverbal, have indistinguishable speech, or who have trouble communicating needs and ideas have found success using PECS. The system uses pictures and symbols, displayed on a board or in a binder that a person can point to when he wants to communicate. Although there are many advantages to using this system to aid people in need, there are some disadvantages to communicating with the help of symbols.


To effectively use the Picture Exchange Communication System, parents and educators must be trained in the phases of implementation. The initial cost of the training is $330, which is costly if many teachers, family members and therapists need the training. The picture cards and binders that are a part of the system can also get costly if a parent or teacher chooses to buy ready-made resources. However, in an effort to cut the cost, pictures can be drawn by hand or printed from a computer.


Some parents may be worried that using a nonverbal form of communication will further delay speech, or even repress speech completely. If parents or educators are not fully committed to using PECS, the child will not receive the constant reinforcement needed for PECS to be successful. If parents resist using PECS because it is a nonverbal form of communication, they may not fully invest the time needed to teach the child the value of communication. Parents may see non-verbal communication as an impediment to attaining verbal communication.


The PECS system may become limiting as an individual becomes more advanced in his communication abilities. In order for a nonverbal individual to communicate thoughts and ideas using PECS, a picture card must be available for what he wishes to convey. Teachers, parents and therapists can continue to add pictures to the PECS binder, but there may not always be a picture to help the individual share his ideas. This can be frustrating for both the individual and the teacher or parent.

Modifications Necessary

When using PECS, you must constantly modify the binder or picture board that holds the pictures used to help the person communicate. Pictures are added as the individual becomes more sophisticated in his communication skills. Having access to a computer and a printer is necessary for most people using PECS, because some pictures need to be made special for each person. Keeping up with the modifications necessary for PECS to be efficient can be time consuming.