Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

By Rebecca Ray

Find this Common Core aligned resource and more like it in our Special Education Articles!

PECS boards are an essential tool for many nonverbal students, and their instructors. They are also known as token boards, schedule boards, transition boards, first-then boards, or communication boards. These invaluable tools provide students with a way to visually associate ideas about their everyday life, and to communicate with their instructors and family.

What are Picture Exchange Communication Systems?

PECS come in many forms, but all include pictures. The images allow the child to communicate their needs, make choices about what they want, or to know what will come next in their daily schedule. These devices are often associated with decreased behavioral issues in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and nonverbal children, because they allow an alternative expression of needs and ideas.

Create your own at Storyboard That Donny is seven. He's a non-verbal ASD child. His speech delay makes it difficult for him to communicate, and this leads to behavioral issues. If only there was a way to give him a voice... Wait! He can communicate visually! Using a PECS board, Donny can choose images of items or activities he wants, and place them on his board! PROBLEM SOLUTION I want:


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How can PECS be Used?

PECS can be used to help a child communicate with you, and for you to provide visual schedules to them in a way that is easy to understand. PECS will typically start with pictures of desired objects like food, places, and familiar people. Over time, sentence strips are added. For example, a picture of a chocolate chip cookie that reads below: "I want cookies." For some students, these boards eventually transition from pictures to words.

Parents and educators also use PECS are to create schedule boards, a visual schedule of the child’s days. For students who have a difficult time transitioning between actives, using PECS boards is a great way to motivate them to shift settings or actions.

PECS Board Uses
Create your own at Storyboard That CHOICES TRANSITIONING COMMUNICATION At home, a loved one can help decide a snack choice with images. In the classroom, a teacher can show the morning activities: Art-Lunch-Recess Using a PECS, the child can find the appropriate image to communicate a need or want.


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Limitations of Traditional PECS Boards

Traditional PECS boards are made of one or two inch laminated squares attached to a board, or door, or a binder by Velcro. These components undergo heavy use and are prone to being damaged or lost. Alternatives use baseball card holders or picture albums, but lost components continue to be a problem.

Traditionally purchased PECS boards necessarily have a limited range of images, descriptions, specific scenarios. More can be constructed, but the process is frequently labor and time intensive.

Creating your own PECS boards with Storyboard That

Using Storyboard That, teachers and parents can create better PECS boards. Compared with the variety of items available to traditional PECS boards, Storyboard That's options are almost endless. Plus, PECS with Storyboard That is easily customizable. With hundreds of scenes, characters, and thousands of images in search, there is always an image that can be used.

With Storyboard That, PECS boards can be quickly saved and stored in your dashboard, allowing you easy access to find them later. They're electronic, so they won't get damaged or lost, no matter how much they're used.

Here's an example of a PECS board a user might create:

Today's Schedule - PECS Board


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For a closer look, take a look at some of our other articles on PECS Boards!

PECS Boards Benefits on Storyboard That
Create your own at Storyboard That Quickly search thousands of images. Customizable fonts for students who require enlarged print Premade scenes, for a variety of needs All your boards, saved in one place DRINK drink drink DRINK DRINK I want my Teddy Bear I need to go to the bathroom


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Prefer a different language?

•   (English) PECS / Token Boards / Transition Boards   •   (Español) PECS / Tableros / Tableros de Transición   •   (Français) PECS / Fiches de Connexion / Cartes de Transition   •   (Deutsch) PECS / Token Boards / Übergangskarten