Communication Series – PECS Phase II

PECS Phase II – Distance and Persistence


If your student has mastered Phase I and is consistently exchanging a card for an item of their preference, you’re ready to move onto the next stage. Obviously, their PECS book isn’t going to always be conveniently placed in front of them, and their communication partner isn’t going to be patiently waiting for them to hand over the card. Sometimes we’re busy, sometimes the book’s on the floor… You get the idea.

This is the area that the next phase addresses – having to look for your PECS book and having to look for the person who has the thing you want or who will be able to get you the thing that you want.

You’re going to want to start out small to begin with, because the student has gotten used to the process of the book being right there and them being able to just take the card off the front. Up until now, you as the communication partner have been within arm’s reach. So that’s the first place you start – you just move back enough that the student has to lean forward to be able to exchange the card. If they choose to get up and walk to you rather than lean that’s fine, but they must exchange the card with you and not throw it at or to you.

Then you slowly move yourself back creating situations where the student has to get up and walk over to you to exchange the card. You may need to reintroduce the physical prompter to help with this initially, and if at any point the student fails then you put the card back on the table, get the physical prompter to help them complete the exchange, and then for the next trial reduce the distance so that they can be successful.

Your aim is for the student to be able to get up and locate you (or an appropriate individual) anywhere in the room in order to complete the exchange. Once they can do this, you can start to move the book around.

So far, even as you have been moving further away from the student, the book and PECS card have remained in front of them. Again start small by just pushing the book far enough away that the student has to reach for it, then slowly increase the distance the book is from them. Initially whilst doing this you are going to want to reduce the distance between you and the student again, and possibly reintroduce the physical prompter to ensure they have the greatest chance of success. The aim is eventually that even if the book is on the other side of the room, or hanging by the student’s workstation, they can locate it and go and retrieve it to be able to use it. Of course as much as possible you’re going to want to encourage the student to take ownership of their PECS book and carry it around, but there will be times they put it down and if they do they need to be able to find it.

This can take a while to master, because you want your student to be able to basically walk from where they are to where their book is and then to you, or any combination of that. So take it slow, there’s nothing to be gained by rushing and pushing the book or yourself away too far and having the student fail.

Until next time.

Disclaimer: The opinions and information provided in this post are my own, and based on personal, educational, and work-based experience. They do not reflect the opinions of any of the authors of the content referenced in this post. I am not affiliated or supported by any organisation, and this is meant to be an educational series of posts. The information posted here is not a substitute for advice and information provided by your own GP, speech and language therapist, occupational therapist or other professional in the field of autism, and should not be taken as such.

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