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(a challenge to fulfill for my non-verbal student)
About PECS
PECS is an augmentative and alternative method for communicating. Children with verbal problems may really benefit from this especially kids with autism spectrum disorder. PECS could really be a help to one of my student who is a non-verbal. At the initial stage of introducing PECS to a non-verbal child, its best if the teacher will know the preferences of the child in terms of foods or activities that he likes doing. Llene Schwartz from the University of Washington made a short and concise detail as to how PECS is implemented.
There were 7 training steps that were made mentioned which are the following: Step 1 – Getting ready - Final objective:  To identify toys, activities, and food items that are motivating to the individual child before beginning training. Highly preferred items are necessary to teach the child appropriate initiations; Step 2 - Final Objective:  Upon seeing a highly preferred object, the child will pick up the corresponding picture symbol, reach toward the communicative partner, and release the picture-symbol into the communicative partner's hand; Step 3 - Final Objective:  The child retrieves his/her communication book, removes a picture symbol, finds a communicative partner, and releases the picture symbol into the communicative partner's hand; Step 4- Final Objective:  The child will request an object/action by retrieving his/her communication board, scanning and selecting the corresponding picture-symbol from an array, finding a communicative partner and exchanging the picture-symbol for the desired object/action. Discrimination will be checked by correspondence checks -- that is presenting the child with two objects and telling them toselect the one they asked for; Step 5 - Final Objective:  The child requests present and non-present by using multi-word utterances, specifically using the "I want"symbol and sentence strip; Step 6 - Final Objective:  The child will independently request objects from a peer using a sentence developed with symbols from the child's communication book' Step 7 - Final Objective:  The child will make comments and answer questions using full sentences developed with the "I have", "I see" and "I hear" symbols. Furthermore, it was mentioned that when using PECS in the classroom, one should:
•Use novel materials
•Limit the number of preferred materials
•Limit the time spent with preferred toys and activities (to require the child to ask more often)
•Place materials so that they are visible, but out of reach
•Require children to ask for materials
•Require children to be persistent in their communication
From other sources, we could see that some have 7 steps like the one above and some have only 6 phases on how PECS is implemented but all of which are similar in purpose and the techniques and strategies applied.
Phase I
Teaches students to initiate communication right from the start by exchanging a single picture for a highly desired item.
Phase II
Teaches students to be persistent communicators- to actively seek out their pictures and to travel to someone to make a request.
Phase III
Teaches students to discriminate pictures and to select the picture that represents the item they want.
Phase IV
Teaches students to use sentence structure to make a request in the form of "I want _____."
Phase V
Teaches students to respond to the question "What do you want?"
Phase VI
Teaches students to comment about things in their environment both spontaneously and in response to a question.
Furthermore, communication does not only involve speech but the ability of a child to point at an object, wave hands or simply makes gestures of what he wants is already a form of communication which we refer to it as augmentative communication as what Bronwyn Dredge had explained. Hence, PECS could be best implemented when a child has the desire to communicate.
What PECS can do to my student
In his eyes I see how he wanted to say something (referring to one of my students). There were instances when I said to myself that if only I could get into his mind and find out what he's trying to tell me for sure I would not be repeating again and again asking him "what do you want?" or "what?". More often than not, he only makes gestures which I admit I could hardly understand as to what he wants which leaves me in a blank state of mind. Perhaps, one of the reasons why he sometimes burst out in tantrums is because I and other teachers have little idea what he likes to do. Thus, the inability to verbalize what he wants is a great hindrance in communicating with the people around him. I am really looking forward to make use of the PECSand see how he does. For a non-verbal kid like him, I am quite optimistic that in due time I would be able to see how he would communicate with me using picture exchange. I see in him the desire to communicate and how he struggles to utter certain words which seems so impossible for him to express what he wants to say or do. His ability to point at things or make gestures are  great signs  that he can communicate with me through PECS. After having read some of the articles and  research about PECS and how it is implemented, it at least gave me an idea of the how's and what's of it.
My student's previous teacher had made use of PECS with him. Hence, I am crossing my fingers that he will do well when I will start introducing PECS to him again. Since I am his new teacher now, I would like to use new sets of pictures for our picture exchange which I will make especially for him. At the getting ready stage, we know that we should find out what are those things that motivates a child like certain  activities or food items that he likes. So, if you ask me "what is jhis favorite food/s?" Well, probably some of you already know. He likes fried banana and hotcakes. It gets him excited if I'll tell him that we will cook. In terms of activities that he likes doing, he wants to sweep or wipe windows. Perhaps, I could start with using one picture first which shows a food item that he prefers most like the fried banana.  We will perhaps have cooking fried  banana  activity to see how he responds using PECS.
I am therefore crossing my fingers in the hopes that PECS could really give way for my student to be able to communicate. It would be a delight to see my student handling over the picture to me that describes that this is what he wants to eat or do. The amount of pictures will be limited as what Llene Schwartz had cited when using PECS in the classroom. I agree with her because I think that this will not confuse or stress the child with so many pictures at the beginning stage. For teachers, patience and persistence is really needed.
from the internet:
from the book:
Bloomberg, Karen & Johnson Hilary., ed. Communication Without Speech: a guide for parents and teachers, 1991
Applied Behavior Analysis

 "The whole point of ABA is to teach the prerequisites to make it
possible for a child to learn 'naturally' ".
                                               Richard Saffran 1

     ABA or APPLIED BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS : Applied" means practice, rather than research or philosophy. "Behavior analysis" may be read as "learning theory," that is, understanding what leads to (or doesn't lead to) new skills. (This is a simplification: ABA is just as much
about maintaining and using skills as about learning.) 1

     Behavior Analysis dates back at least to Skinner, who was a proponent to the idea that immediate positive consequences to a target behavior leads to behavior changes. Applied Behavior Analysis, which was established by Dr. Ivar Lovaas, is a structured and intensive program in which he took the basic principals in behavior science and emphasized the intensity needed for particular kids. But, how do they do it? There are many "challenges to learning" encountered by children with
autism. Below are some of the individual challenges and how ABA specifically addresses those issues.
1.Low motivation –You need to find what will work for this particular
child to motivate his interest in completing a task. Every effort should be made to maximize the contrast between positive and negative consequences so that the concept of cause-and-effect can be learned.
2.Limited reinforcement repertoire – ABA principles recognize that social reinforcers (approval or disapproval) are usually not effective. Praise, in and of itself, is not enough at first, but can
be paired with a more tangible reinforcer (such as grapes, a favorite toy, etc.). Eventually the tangible reward can be taken away and the continuing smiles and words of praise "come to be effective in their own right."

3.Short attention span – ABA breaks each task into very small, measurable steps.
4. Easily distracted – Teaching in a quiet environment by reducing auditory and visual distractions is important. The goal is to begin in a very structured environment, but to move the child into more and more ordinary environments as they become more successful "so that the child becomes able to work in the presence of distracters." 5.Learn more slowly – Repetition is an important method for autistic children, but it should not be boring or tedious. "In fact," Dr. McEachin says, "that's our responsibility - to make sure it's NOT tedious". Some kids require literally hundreds of trials on order to learn a specific concept, but they also will learn it more effectively if it is practiced within a short time span. 6.Difficulty understanding abstract concepts – ABA therapists use concrete examples of concepts and begin with the simplest language that the child is able to understand. Then more complex language is added as the skills and concepts are learned. "We definitely want to get the children to the point where they can understand everyday language – natural language".
7.Poor learning by observation – These children have difficulty picking things up incidentally, so the need is to explicitly and systematically teach each skill or behavior. ABA stresses the skill of imitating people "because if they can imitate, they are able to learn a lot of skills that they would otherwise not," says Dr. McEachin.
8.Poor differentiation between relevant and irrelevant stimuli - These children often do not know the difference between the essential aspect of a situation and those aspects that are trivial. Focusing attention and presenting only stimulus that is considered essential is a way of circumventing this problem. It is important to watch out for erroneous
associations. They may learn to tell boy dolls from girl dolls based on the shoes that they wear rather than the more obvious differences. These associations may not be reliable and "we have to teach them to zero in on the relevant aspects of the situation". Be careful with tools like flash cards, he says, because you could find out that the child is discriminating one from another based on a bent corner or smudge on the cards. He stressed the need for using different materials and in different ways to avoid their "making responses based on things that really are not an essential part of the concept."
9.Behaviors such as self-stimulation interfere with learning – "When they are stimming," Dr. McEachin tells us, "that's often where their attention is." If 90% of their attention is invested in their
self-stim activity, there's only 10% left to focus on the task at hand, "so we have to work on suppressing those behaviors that interfere with learning."

10.Difficulty learning in large groups – Once the child is learning well in a one-to-one setting, they can begin moving to a 1:2 setting; 1:4; 1:8; etc. by gradually increasing the size of the environment as they are able to maintain attention and remain on task.
 11.Does not occupy self appropriately during free time – ABA provides structure and teaches leisure skills. Dr. McEachin says to "build in play skills and other types of activities that they can do
independently so that they're not going off into their autistic world."
12.Sensory/motor impairments – Sometimes their reactions can be over-responsive or under-responsive. Often the visual channel works better than the auditory for obtaining information. Dr. McEachin stresses that the children who are the most successful in ABA are
children who are able to use the auditory channel successfully. Therapists attempt to balance playing to their strength by using the visual channel in teaching, with pushing the child to develop better use of their auditory system. For children who don't like touch, Dr.McEachin says, "we touch them." He believes they end up not only becoming able to tolerate it, but actually enjoying it.

Components of a discrete trial
Each skill is taught in very small and very brief units called "trials". Each trial consists of an instruction, a prompt, an opportunity/response, and feedback. The instruction is given in very
clear language that the child can understand, and, as the child becomes able to handle more complex language, it moves toward a more natural language base. They may begin with a direct stimulus "look at me" then move to a more natural stimulus such as just saying the
child's name to get his attention. Prompts are not always needed, but they will use "anything that will facilitate the desired response". These can be visual prompts such as a gesture or taking the child's hand and moving it through the desired motions (a physical prompt), but the aim is to reach a point where the child can do the desired task with no prompt at all. The response should be evident within about 5 seconds. If there is no response, or an incorrect response, the trial is considered to be over and a new one begins (although it may be the same task – in fact, many people would not be able to tell where one "trial" ends and the next begins.
It is broken up this way so that data can be obtained on the progress of the child).
Feedback on each trial is given immediately. The more information that is provided to a child here, the faster the learning can take place. It is important, he says, not to praise every response; some will be terrific, some barely adequate, some not quite accurate and some simply unacceptable (such as throwing things). Use the feedback, Dr. McEachin says, to indicate where the response falls. ABA has a reputation for using strong aversives because that was the way the program was originally designed years ago, however, that has changed and they no longer use very strong negative feedback. He points out though, that "some people think that merely saying 'no' to a child constitutes an aversive. What I would say about that is, hearing the word 'no' is a very common, everyday event. It is part of the world, part of life, and if you're a person who cannot handle simply hearing the word 'no', you're going to have a really, really rough go of it. I
think it's important for us to teach children to be able to handle the word 'no' simply at an informational level." That doesn't, he stresses, imply that screaming at children is OK, but firmness can be conveyed without disrupting the situation. There are times, he says, to be very supportive even though they have given the wrong answer. They worked hard, they are sitting appropriately, they are careful about their response, but it is incorrect. Clear information is conveyed in the words and the vocal inflection "Oh, no. Good try." If they are not attending, it's OK to say "No. You need to look." The only way to tell if learning is actually taking place is if the child gives some kind of response "that he can only make if he, in fact, understands." Evaluation of the effectiveness of trials is a critical part of the therapy, he says. Data tells whether a student is making progress or not, and if not, "I conclude there's something wrong with what I'm doing, rather than 'this student doesn't learn very well'." He stated that behavior experts need data to demonstrate
the cause-and-effect relationship between the intervention and the outcome, "we want to see measurable, observable changes." 3
       So that is the general picture of how ABA works. But did you know that there are other interventions which are based on ABA.
Here are some hodgepodge terms for ABA-based interventions for children with Autism :
1.      UCLA Model
2.      Intensive Behavior Intervention (IBI)
3.      Applied Verbal Behavior
4.      Discrete- Trial Training
5.      Pivotal Response Training
6.      Natural Environment Training
Each may use a unique system of instruction, each may identify different behaviors of focus, but each is based on the science of ABA.
       One of the most famous which is almost synonymous to ABA is Discrete Trial Training. Here is an example:
The Discrete Trial
A Terribly Wooden Example
The setup: Joey is working receptive colors. Joey's teacher wants him to independently select a cube of a named color from an array of three differently colored cubes. Before she designed this program, Joey's teacher gave Joey a quick probe (initial assessment) and determined that he was not able to identify a blue cube when asked, so she knows that he is going to need help right away in finding that color. Joey also has trouble following lengthy streams of language, so his teacher
knows that she will need to keep her directions consistent, short, and clear. The teacher also knows that Joey finds praise from her reinforcing -- so she can use that to reinforce approximations or
prompted responses -- and that he really loves M&Ms -- so she can use that to reinforce independent correct answers. Again this example is much more stale and unimaginative than I
typically strive for in my sessions, but is, I hope, illustrative of the steps of a discrete trial, if not a prime example of a fantastic teaching style.
Teacher: "Joey, show me blue."
The teacher takes Joey's hand, shapes it so the index finger is
extended, and points to the blue cube.
Teacher: "Yes! That's the blue cube. Nice job."
The teacher jots on the data sheet that Joey was unable to
independently identify the blue cube on this trial.
[End of first trial.]
Teacher: "Joey, show me blue."
Joey does not respond. After a few seconds, the teacher places her
hand on Joey's, Joey extends his finger himself, and the teacher helps
him to find the blue cube.
Teacher: "Yup. That's the blue cube."
The teacher jots on the data sheet that Joey was unable to
independently identify the blue cube on this trial.
[End of second trial.]
Teacher: "Joey, show me blue."
Joey does not respond. After a few seconds, the teacher moves to take
Joey's hand, but as she does, Joey points to the blue cube.
Teacher: "Good job! That's the blue cube."
Joey still needed a little prompt — the teacher's moving to take his
hand — so the teacher jots on the data sheet that Joey was unable to
independently identify the blue cube on this trial.
[End of third trial.]
Teacher: "Joey, show me blue."
Joey points to the blue cube.
Teacher: "Yes! Great job! That's the blue cube."
The teacher gives Joey a high five and a couple of M&Ms. She marks on
the data sheet that Joey was able to identify the blue cube on this
[End of fourth trial.]
In the first three trials, all five parts of the discrete trial are present: the discriminative stimulus (the teacher's asking Joey to show her blue), a prompting stimulus (the teacher's shaping a response, or giving a slight cue to get Joey going); a response (even though Joey did not produce the target response, independent selection of the cube, in these first three trials, he did produce a prompted response in each, and with increasing accuracy), the reinforcing stimulus (the teacher's verbal praise and encouragement), and the inter-trial interval (the period between trials where the teacher was able to take down the data from that trial). In the fourth trial, there was no prompting stimulus, which was the desired outcome, as the teacher wanted Joey to perform this task independently. Also, as Joey did exactly what the teacher wanted of him in this trial, the reinforcement for this trial is escalated, with the hope that the child, wanting that same level of reinforcement again in the future, will perform similarly later on. 4
       I think that ABA is a challenging program that would require study and training for the one who will be utilizing the said program. It is intensive, structured and Id say would require much much knowledge. But I think that it is a good program since it focuses on the child's behavior which is the most complex aspect and aims for natural learning and an environment that is welcoming and is conducive. Still, parents, teachers and people in the environment are still vital factors for a child's progress.
2 article by Jason M. Wallin
(Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped CHildren)
Work System – " I Can Do It Myself"


      "The goal of independence is a priority for all children and a typical developmental milestone. Beginning to complete task with minimal adult prompt or guidance is meaningful and
motivating to children and it's a feeling of accomplishment and competent. This desire for independence is certainly present in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and a key for successful community inclusion and future employment."1

Work System

       A highly recommended strategy that addresses independence as an essential outcome for students with ASD is, "work system". A work system is an element of structured teaching, as a systematic and organized presentation of tasks and materials that visually communicate at least four faces of information to the students. The following are; the tasks/steps the student is supposed to do, how many tasks/steps there are to be completed, how the
students knows he/she is finished, and what to do when he/she is finished.2

       A work system instructs a student on what to do once they arrive in the scheduled area. It provides all of the required information without adult prompting and teaches the student
to attend to visual cues rather than verbal direction.
            So teachers specifically Special education teachers needed to be creative and skillful enough to create their classroom visually structured. A lot of materials new or recycled are
important to be at hand.

       In TEACCH classroom they make use of many visual organizers or cues because visual processing is the strength of so many children with autism. It assists in organizing and maximizing independent functioning and capitalizing child's affinity for routines by providing a systematic work routine working from left-to-right or top-to-bottom for student with ASD.3

        Providing structure, set up classroom will effectively teach autistic students to understand where to go, what to do, and how to do it, all as independently as possible.
        The student will rely on the concrete visual cues rather than the teacher's verbal or physical prompts in order to understand what to do. Using his strong visual skills in getting
meaning from what he sees in front of him. Even when the teacher is not present the visual cues are use as prompters. And this visual structure increases the student's ability to work successfully and independently without interaction or intervention by the teacher. The independent task activity given with a clear beginning and end will be performed successfully by the student without a teacher's physical, verbal, or gestural prompts.4
Visually structured rooms are not only to be set up in schools it is also a help to set up in their homes in order to continue their training and so that it will be spontaneously done by
the child.  For the goal of independence , "The key to successful community inclusion and future employment."


1 Hume, Kara, "I Can Do it Myself!" Using Work Systems to Build
Independence in Students with ASD,
2 Ibid
3"An Intervention System for Autism",,
Excerpted from Cohen, Shirly, TARGETING AUTISM: What We Know, Don't
Know, and Can Do to Help Young Children with Autism and Related
Disorders,1998, p. 104
4 Supplemented Readings in Autism for TEACCH Training, "Visually
Structured Tasks: Independent Activities for Students with Autism and
Other Visual Learners, p.5

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