Communication {Systems}

Some students with autism are nonverbal or have minimal verbal abilities. These students need a thorough and accessible means of communication. You need to setup a consistent system of communication that will allow your student to express his wants and needs easily. The key is easy! Due to a delay in communication, many children with autism may engage in inappropriate behaviors to get what they want. Of course they do! They have limited options! If you could use your voice to get what you want – you would engage in inappropriate responses too! So this communication system needs to be easier and more accessible than that inappropriate behavior. Make it even more effective – and make sure that negative response does not result in the child getting what he or she wants!

Picture Exchange Communication

The Picture Exchange Communication System is a form of augmentative and alternative communication. Well, that’s a mouth full, hugh. Basically it’s a way for individuals to communicate using pictures. This is commonly used for children with autism. Several of my students use this system to communicate in the classroom. There is a specific format to teach PECS to students.

  1. First you teach single picture – the student hands one picture to receive a desired item.
  2. Next, move the communication book or adult to new locations to teach persistence.
  3. Teach discrimination between more than one picture.
  4. Sentence strip – using the “I want” picture on a sentence strip with the requested item.
  5. Responding to “What do you want?” with the sentence strip fluently.
  6. Teaching commenting using pictures.

Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display

Pragmatic – the ways that we use language socially. Organization – words and symbols arranged in a systematic way. Dynamic Display – changing pages. PODD is a way of organizing whole word and symbol vocabulary in a communication book to provide a means of expressive language behavior. 



Augmentative and Alternative Communication Device {AAC Device}

AAC devices encompass both electric and non-electric communication systems that supplement or aide communicative speech. Low tech systems include books and pictures – things that do no need batteries or a plug. High tech systems include a range of speech generating devices which are dynamic, interactive, and may allow the individual to spell/speak novel words. Common AAC devices include the Dynavox and Novachat.




These are some big categories that include some structured and preset systems. However – many individuals utilize a combination or hybrid of some of these approaches. Whatever works for the individual! We want to give our students and children the best opportunity for successful communication. So my advice: mix and match; play around; try different approaches. Make your child successful! 


Relevant posts:

The Autism Helper - Communication

The Autism Helper - Communication

The Autism Helper - Communication

The Autism Helper - Communication


  1. Hi—I worked with many special needs children over 35+ years of teaching. The last 15 years of working, I worked primarily with children on the spectrum with little or no communication skills. I love developing those skills with children and their families. At 55 yrs. of age I got very ill, with several serious conditions, and I have not been teaching for about 8 or 9 years now (at 65 years of age). I truly miss my involvement with these individuals, especially miss watching them progress. Any ideas about how someone like me could get involved again. My health is a lot better now–still have some mobility problems, but I am able to get around fairly well.

  2. Hi Suzanne! Glad to hear your health is on the upswing! What about volunteering? Or work at a special recreation program?


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *