Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


36th Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2010

Event Details

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Symposium #140
CE Offered: BACB
Assessing the Picture Exchange Communication System Across the Lifespan: An Evaluation of PECS Generalization and Concomitant Increases in Vocalizations
Sunday, May 30, 2010
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
205 (CC)
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: Marjorie H. Charlop-Christy (Claremont McKenna College)
Discussant: Andrew S. Bondy (Pyramid Educational Consultants)
CE Instructor: Travis Thompson, Ph.D.He's Travis Thompson
Abstract: Interest in the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) has been rapidly increasing since its introduction to the field in the early 90s. PECS is currently one of the most widely used interventions for nonverbal persons with autism. In addition to its widespread use in clinical settings, PECS has also been the focus of a growing number of research studies. While these studies make significant contributions to the field, little is known about PECS generalization and the relationship between PECS training and vocalizations in children with no prior speech. The first presentation explores PECS generalization from a treatment center to the children’s homes and a community setting. The second presentation investigates the relationship between PECS acquisition and vocalizations in children with little or no speech prior to intervention. Finally, the third presentation discusses PECS training with a 38-year old male with severe autism, including generalization measures and feedback from his parents and staff concerning the effectiveness of PECS. Together, these studies add promising support for the use of PECS as a functional means of communication for both children and adults with autism.
Evaluating Generalization of the Picture Exchange Communication System in Children With Autism
ALISSA GREENBERG (Claremont Graduate University), Melaura Andree Erickson (Claremont Graduate University), Marjorie H. Charlop-Christy (Claremont McKenna College)
Abstract: The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) was intended to provide nonverbal persons with a functional means of communication. Although the PECS training manual (Frost & Bondy, 2002) specifies that PECS training should occur throughout the day in a variety of settings, the majority of research studies have limited PECS training to specific times and settings. Furthermore, only a handful of these studies have included generalization measures. Therefore, the research does not demonstrate that when taught in one setting, PECS will generalize to all other settings. In the present study, four children with autism were taught PECS in a workroom at their behavioral treatment center. In addition to acquiring PECS in the training setting, the children also used PECS in four generalization probes: in the playroom with a therapist, at home with a therapist, at home with a parent, and in the community with a stranger. Generalization of PECS use also maintained to 1-month and 1-year follow-up sessions. These findings make important contributions to the PECS literature as they provide preliminary evidence that PECS may indeed provide nonverbal personal with a functional means of communication.
An Analysis of the Effects of PECS Training on Vocalizations in Children With Limited Speech
MELAURA ANDREE ERICKSON (Claremont Graduate University), Alissa Greenberg (Claremont Graduate University), Marjorie H. Charlop-Christy (Claremont McKenna College)
Abstract: Research demonstrates that some children with autism show increases in speech once they have been trained to use PECS to communicate. However, the literature remains mixed and several studies show that increases in speech only occur in children who had some language prior to PECS training. The relationship between PECS training and speech remains unclear for children with limited or no vocalizations. The present study assessed the relationship between PECS use and vocalizations in four children with autism. Two children did not make any vocalizations before and throughout PECS training. Prior to intervention, the other two children made sounds when presented with desired items (e.g., “buh” when shown a toy car). Throughout PECS training, these children began requesting items with PECS instead of vocalizations. In the next phase of the study, the children who were able to verbally imitate at least five sounds were taught to pair PECS exchanges with spontaneous vocalizations. Results indicate that this is a promising method to increase both spontaneous PECS use and spontaneous vocalizations, demonstrating the utility of PECS as a pathway to increasing vocalizations in children with limited speech.
Teaching PECS to an Adult With Autism: An Analysis of PECS Acquisition, Generalization, and Stakeholders’ Perspectives
MARJORIE H. CHARLOP-CHRISTY (Claremont McKenna College), Alissa Greenberg (Claremont Graduate University), Melaura Andree Erickson (Claremont Graduate University)
Abstract: Although several studies have demonstrated that adults with developmental disabilities can learn to use PECS, little is known about PECS use in adults with autism. The present study taught PECS to a 38-year old male with severe autism, Noah. Prior to beginning intervention, Noah’s communicative behaviors were limited to grunting, grabbing, and gestures. He had been taking sign language classes for the past 7-years, but did not spontaneously use signs to request any items or activities, besides bathroom. Despite this long history of limited communicative skills, Noah successfully learned to use PECS in the training setting as his school. Noah also generalized PECS use to his home with staff and family members. These stakeholders also completed questionnaires regarding Noah’s communicative behaviors prior to and post PECS training. Data on PECS acquisition and generalization, as well as responses from the questionnaires, lend support to the use of PECS as a means of functional communication for adults with autism.



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