Examining the effects of the picture exchange communication system on requesting skills of children with autism
Dogoe, Maud S.
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According to the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), ASD is one of the fastest growing disability categories and the most challenging to school personnel. About half the population of persons with autism is nonverbal. Consequently, most of these individuals use unconventional communicative behaviors such as hitting, crying, and other types of aberrant behaviors that are socially stigmatizing. Interventions to replace unconventional communicative behaviors include alternative augmentative communication (AAC) strategies. One of the AAC strategies found to be effective for persons with autism is the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). PECS is widely used to teach functional communication to children with language delays including autism. This study examined the effects of PECS on requesting skills of three children with autism. Participants were recruited through parent groups and the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research. All training sessions were conducted in a clinical setting (a room with a one-way mirror) in the College of Education building at Texas Tech University. The study answered the following questions: (a) Will children with autism acquire requesting skills using PECS? (b) Once the skills are acquired, will they be able to generalize the requesting skills across persons, settings, and stimulus classes? and (c) Will the participants be able to maintain the learned behaviors over time? The single-subject delayed multiple baseline across participants design was used for the study. This design was used to measure changes in behavior before, during, and after treatment and the data was analyzed using the visual analysis method. The results indicated that all three participants acquired PECS skills for requesting and generalized the skills across all three conditions measured. Follow-up probes also revealed that the participants maintained the skills. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed. This study provides additional empirical data on the effectiveness of PECS to enhance communication skills in persons with autism.