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Picture Exchange Communication System impact on Autism Spectrum Disorder adult/child
Picture exchange communication entails development of communication skills without
using speech. It enables autism spectrum disorder individuals to communicate. PECS involves
the use of pictures or photographs on cards that represent actions, objects or tasks thus allowing
ASD persons to communicate. This research is aimed at evaluating the entire PECS program and
its importance in facilitating communication to ASD adults and children. The research paper
begins with the introduction and description of what picture exchange communication program
entails. It also describes the various stages of training in PECs and how ASD individuals acquire
communicative skills. Also, the paper will analyses different recommendations that have been
developed to improve the efficiency of PECS program.
PECs impact on autism spectrum disorder ASD adult/child
The image exchange type of communication structure typically referred as PECS is
method essential for teaching untimely sign language. This communication training program was
developed in the year 1985. It is regarded as a unique alternative/augmentative form of
communication for persons with autism spectrum disorder and other related disabilities. Picture
exchange communication enables social-communication disorder persons such as autistic
individuals to communicate through pictures. Individuals using PECs are taught to approach
other people by picture communication, thus exchange or obtain the desired item. It means that
either minor/major possessing autism can utilize picture exchange communication to convey an
idea or appeal for something using a sound sign or exhibit on picture card (Frost, 2002.
The PECS initiative is not meant for instructing verbal communication, despite the fact
that children are ultimately motivated and some impulsively utilize speech after its engagement
in the program. It was first used in Delaware in a program for individuals with autism disorder
(Corbett and Prelock, 2017). The program has been recognized globally because of its focus on
fundamental communication components. PECS’s training program is undertaken through
typical activities carried out in natural settings such as home or classroom. It occurs through a
wider positive behavioral approach context support known as pyramid approach. PECs program
entails training techniques such as environmental engineering, chaining, modeling and
prompting/cuing (Howlin, 2012). Proper implementation of the communication program requires
professional training in this field. PEC’s communication system is a unique training program
package developed for young children with social communication disorders such as autism. The
program was initially designed for people with autism to teach them the basic concepts of
communication. It is a training program based on established psychological principles such as
applied behavior analysis that include reinforcement and shaping. Trained facilitators eventually
shape the impulse of an individual to reach desired items through symbolic communications act
to another person. People with communication difficulties or autism benefits of the
communication made possible by picture exchange communication. PECs program is a
communication system focused on training these people through several stages (Boesch, Wendt,
and Subramanian, 2013). This paper focuses on evaluating the effects of the PECS program on
children/adults with social communication disorders especially autism.
Literature review
Picture exchange communication training begins with teaching individuals how to use
pictures of desired objects with their communicative partners. The learning is advanced to
dissemination of picture materials and using them together to form sentences which enhance
communication abilities for these individuals.
ASD adult/child learners for PEC’s training
PEC’s communication training system can be offered to children as well as adults with
cognitive impairment. It is important that PEC’s program, candidates should have the intent to
communicate. It whole indicates that the minor/major engraining in the learning knows of the
importance of spreading the note to the rest though in a small approach (Bondy, 2014). For
example, the minor/major that drags an individual diagonally the scope to the point that the thing
is situated possesses a belief of want to communicate (Vicker, n.d.). However, there are others
with autism or difficulty in communication who struggle to obtain the things they need without
sorting for assistance from someone else. The social communication disorders children/ adults
with the behavior of fulfilling their desires/needs may not have the intent to communicate (Frost,
2002). They require a different, unique approach before they obtain PEC’s training.
Moreover, in possessing deliberately, people who have public communication
complications need to possess various individual preferences. PEC aids in training the idea of
substitute communication capability. The training begins with sampling for preferences because
if they are weak, it means that the child/adult will have difficulties in learning and understanding
the concept. In situation where either a minor or major has handful brawny preferences, it could
be vital to extend a catalogue of dislikes and preferences by using past of diverse forms of
disclosure to items, actions or foods.
Picture discrimination ability is an essential aspect to social-communication disorder
children/adults undertaking the PEC’s program. The individuals with no skills of discrimination
may have quick progress in the initial levels of the communication training program. However,
some individuals may demonstrate the spontaneous ability to discriminate picture materials and
using them to communicate. Such students with developing picture discrimination abilities may
be trained in traditional augmentative communication approaches (Corbett and Prelock, 2017).
Although PEC’s communication system is useful for nonverbal individuals, it could also
be suitable for persons with other social communication disorders. Such as individuals with
unintelligible speech, those with less meaningful signs or words in their repertoire and
individuals who are primarily echolalic. The implementation of the PEC’s program requires
careful considerations of its weaknesses and strengths when selecting the appropriate program
for each potential communication learner. PEC’s training is useful for adult/child individuals
with a variety of physical, communicative and cognitive difficulties. Some learners undertaking
the picture exchange communication program develop speech while others may experience a
transition in their system of voice output. The program for communication, learning has imparted
training to social communication disorders in children/adults especially autistic individuals.
The potential benefits of offering PEC’s training to individuals with autism.
Picture exchange communication has alternative expected returns to either adults or
children possessing autism spectrum complication as well other similar social communication
complications (Craig, Fanizza and Russo, 2017). The most advantageous benefit of PEC’s
system is that critical community members do not require specialized training in the program.
This is because pictures are readily understood and may be augmented. Thus, the range of
communicative partners who interact with autism spectrum disorder individuals is widened. This
enhances socialization and personal communication between relatives, friends or other people in
the community (Craig, Fanizza and Russo, 2017). PEC’s enables even young autistic children to
acquire core skills of communication using pictures.
According to various research programs conducted there is increasing empirical evidence
to show that PEC’s develops speech abilities of individuals with autism and other social
communication disorders. It is also useful in promoting functional communication skills to
autism spectrum disorder individuals. This means that the program helps these persons to
communicate to others which were not possible before using PEC’s system (Craig, Fanizza and
Russo, 2017). However, the gains in speech/communication abilities may vary between
individuals depending on their learning capabilities.
Potential problems in PEC’s communication training program
Although PEC’s program has various benefits to autism spectrum disorder
children/adults, certain setbacks need to be avoided. For instance, since the system entails the use
of visual icons and pictures, sometimes they may get lost. It is a common occurrence that items
disappear, thus it is essential to prepare ahead for such inconveniences. Making several multiples
of critical pictures is vital to avoiding the problem.
Also, there are instances when a child to communicate about a particular item that may
not be in his system. In this case, communicative partners are advised to use other strategies such
as the history of a child’s type of exposure (Frost, 2002).
Methods used in implementing PEC training program.
Before implementing PECS program, a reinforcer sampling needs to be conducted on
ASD adults/children learners. It entails informal inventory of activities and items of specific
interest to the learner. Reinforcer sampling involves various options for completion. However,
for autism young children or adults with limited skills of communicating there are particular
steps to be followed. These include;
Providing ASD learners with different pairs of choices and ensuring to match every item with the
others that are being sampled.
Gathering various items would match the individual’s preferences.
Identifying items that are most chosen and least chosen by learners together with those that
create a notable response
Through this assessment and sampling, a selection of preferred items that will be used in the
picture communication exchange program is created. The reinforcing objects help motivate the
students as well as facilitate effective skills of communication (Howlin, 2012). PECS program
implementation takes place in different phases.
The First phase
In the initial stages of communication training using the PECS program entails helping
ASD individuals how to communicate. The training in this stage aims at enabling learners to
reach for, pick up, look at, and give the symbolic or picture to the communication partner. These
are essential or primary skills that are applied in PECS training to enhance effective
communication. Practitioner typically modifies a teaching surrounding by exhibiting the
implementer. Presenting each picture at a moment as well as accurately arranging the
communication colleague (Vicker, n.d.).
The PECS training program can also be conducted in other unstructured learning
activities for instance on the playground as learners play. Facilitators are required to be vigilant
in ensuring that picture exchange communication happens across daily activities and routines.
This creates different learning opportunities that facilitate the acquisition of new skills during
such regular routines. In this phase of learning, the students acquire communication skills
through exchanging pictures for desired items or activities they want (Liddle, 2001).
Communicative partners engage ASD individuals by using the reinforcing item displayed
for the learners. This is a communication enhancement skill referred to as physically assisted
communicative exchange. It is prompted by physical interruption of the learners reach for the
desired item by the communication partner. The learner is redirected to choose the symbol or
picture other than trying to achieve it. This facilitates the teaching strategies of fading open-hand
prompt and physical assistance. There are specific steps for implementing the first phase of
PECS training;
o Providing various opportunities for exchange and practice of communication skills, which should
be fun for the learners.
o Use of different communicative partners helps in the development of speech skills and prevents
the learner from being a stimulus dependent on a single person.
o Echolalic learners should be taught on rephrasing their statements when reinforcing and
acknowledging exchange.
The second phase
After completing the first phase of PECS program, learners are trained on using picture
exchange communication across distances with different people and also being persistent
communicators. This stage of training is directed towards boosting the trainee overview and
impulsiveness of picture swap (Vicker, n.d.). Communicative partners create opportunities for
ASD individuals to increase their communicative interaction abilities such as gaining attention
and becoming persistent when looking for desired outcomes (Pasco and Tohill, 2011).
Essentially, the learner is expected to achieve the knowhow and internalizing vital concepts such
as distinguishing the image of wanted items, presenting to communicative colleague and
attaining the item though applying speech (Vicker, n.d.).
Stages involved in expanding spontaneity in ASD individuals
The learner is enticed through the use of reinforcing items by the communicative partner who
creates different opportunities for picture exchanges with many partners. To enhance its
effectiveness partners are chosen from individuals who regularly interact with the learner such as
family members, peers, therapists, siblings, etc. Use of learners’ preferred items/objects in a
learning environment, motivates the student thus engaging in communicative exchange.
Increase in the number of reinforcer items is an effective strategy in compelling PEC’s program
leaners to participate in the communicative exchange (Martocchio and Rosales, 2016). Use of
different pictures enables students to develop generalization skills, thus gaining communicative
exchange skills.
The partner increases his/her positioning or distance from the learner for the student to access the
symbol/picture by moving within proximity of the partner to gain their attention before
communicating a request.
The trainee acquires the image of the required thing exclusive of influence from the
communicative companion (Martocchio and Rosales, 2016).
During the training process, the facilitator/practitioner displays the communication book at a
distance so to make the learner move to obtain a symbol/picture from it. The varying of distance
gradually encourages the student to actively seek particular symbols/ photographs required for
the communicative exchange to occur.
The communication partner delivers the desired item to the learner thus completing the
exchange. Throughout this level of training, there no verbal prompts used to initiate
After the exchange, the learner gets rewarded by the communicative partner with the
object or item requested. In the next segment primarily, the teaching is geared towards boosting
the autonomy of the learner instigating communication (Martocchio and Rosales, 2016). This
improves the ability and communicative skills of the learner using PECS to engage in more
physical movements to facilitate communication.
Third phase of PECS implementation
In the third level of the PECS training program, the student learns the skills of
simultaneous picture discrimination. This phase begins after the student has developed
independent communication exchange. In this stage, ASD individuals are taught on how to
choose desired pictures from a variety of images in a communication exchange. PEC’S users
acquire skills of discriminating between different photographs and select the symbol/picture for
the item desired (Martocchio and Rosales, 2016). Various strategies enhance this in the program
such as discrimination teaching through correction procedure, display of many images, student
progress monitoring and conducting a check for correspondence.
Discrimination training involves availing two picture items to the learner, for instance, a
preferred symbol/picture and another that is not preferred. This activity is carried at a distance;
thus learners are expected to move to be able to choose the correct image. If the ASD individual
chooses the preferred picture, the PECS practitioner is assured that the child/adult is developing
discrimination skills. The strategy of discrimination is critical because it assists learners in
selecting the correct symbol/picture of desired items. A variety of different symbols or items are
used to enhance the discrimination ability of PECS learners. Picture/symbol discrimination
learning can be achieved through various strategies as follows;
Relevant object pictures can be made to be larger than the non-preferred item symbol.
Using of colored pictures to represent desired or relevant objects and black/white coloring for the
non-desired images.
Using a magic marker to highlight the picture of the preferred object will also enhance the
discriminatory ability of ASD individuals.
Displaying blank cards to represent the undesired picture is an effective strategy for developing
descriptive skills in the communication exchange.
Improving the representation of the desired pictures through, for instance, making them three
dimensional by using a poker block or chip to attach it.
The desired or preferred picture can be placed close to the object or item that the learner desires
thus make communication exchange easier while enhancing discriminating skills.
The effectiveness of these strategies depends on the appropriate use of error correction
procedures. Similarly, the practitioner of the PECS program provides a friendly and ample
learning environment for students so that they can convey requests. During PECS training, as
learners demonstrate strong ability to discriminate between pictures of highly preferred items the
facilitators teach them how to distinguish two desirable objects. This can be achieved through
correspondence, checks thus ensuring the learners’ requests for specifically desired items.
When the learner attempts to make communication exchange, the communication partner
fulfills the request, but if the student intends to reach for an object, the facilitator will block
access. This is a corrective procedure applied by trainers and communicative partners in an
attempt to develop discriminating skills in the learner (Corbett and Prelock, 2017).
Procedures for error correction
If the ADS individual using the PECS program provides a wrong picture, the partner takes the
appropriate one and shows it to the learner.
Physical prompting is used by the communication partner to enable the learner to pick the
correct picture that describes the desired items.
In the event the learner has pointed out the correct picture, the facilitator acknowledges verbally
with a proper response.
When the ASD individual undertaking the PECS, program follows the training directives, the
communicative partners engage the learner by interacting or displaying the desired item.
If the learner identifies the correct picture according to his/her desires, the communication
partner gives verbal praise.
After the learner has developed practical skill …
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