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.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #138
Clinical Adaptations of the Picture Exchange Communication System: Innovative Responses to Barriers in Clinical Care
Saturday, May 28, 2022
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Meeting Level 2; Room 258A
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Amanda Zangrillo (University of Nebraska Medical Center, Munroe-Meyer Institute)
Discussant: Brittany Ann Juban (May Institute)

Establishing effective and functional communication repertoires is of utmost importance for our learners. Strategies for acquisition of communication exist along a continuum from general protocols to manualized program. The Picture Exchange Communication System (Bondy & Frost, 2001) is an example of one such program. During the first two phases a second instructor delivers a controlling prompt to evoke the communication response from the speaker to the listener. In this symposium we explore adaptations to the Picture Exchange Communication System. Specifically, Sansing and colleagues present an adaptation in which they eliminated the second instructor to address novel corona virus social distancing recommendations. In their case example, the listener provided the controlling prompt to evoke the communication response from the speaker and the second prompter was eliminated. A changing criterion design was employed to systematically fade the distance the speaker traveled to communicate with the listener. Layman et al., provide a clinic-wide demonstration of a similar accommodation (i.e., removal of the second instructor) to address staffing limitations. Layman et al., evaluate the level of correct independent card exchanges and correct independent vocalizations using the adapted protocol. Dr. Brittany Juban will provide comments and considerations for future practice in this line of research.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): adaptations, COVID-19, PECS

Evaluation of the Picture Exchange Communication System Without a Second Instructor

ELIZABETH M. SANSING (University of North Texas), Karen A. Toussaint (University of North Texas), Gabriel Luke Armshaw (University of North Texas), Samantha Bergmann (University of North Texas ), Alli Horton (University of North Texas), Oluwabukola Elizabeth Akinwale (University of North Texas)

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, behavior analytic practitioners must consider how to provide intervention services while also implementing strategies that reduce virus transmission. The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a communication program that requires a second instructor to deliver physical prompts, as needed, to help the learner engage in the communication response. As a result, three individuals (the speaker, listener, and prompter) are in close proximity to one another. This is contraindicated with recommended protective practices, including limiting the number of individuals in direct contact with each learner and maintaining physical-distance requirements. Thus, modifications to the PECS training protocols were necessary. We evaluated a modified PECS protocol with a young female diagnosed with autism. We eliminated the second instructor and taught the communication response using physical prompts delivered by the listener. Next, we taught the learner to travel to the listener and the communication book by gradually increasing the distance requirements. We evaluated the effects of increased distance requirements using a changing criterion design. The learner acquired the card exchange with few errors. We evaluated the PECS program using a multiple-baseline design across phases. Limited generalization was demonstrated across untrained PECS phases. Limitations and future directions are discussed.


Picture Exchange Communication System Administration Using a Single Clinician

LAUREN LAYMAN (University of Southern Mississippi), Brittany Alysse Pigg (University of Southern Mississippi), Tiffany Harris (University of Southern Mississippi)

The current study aims to rectify one common barrier to effective interventions: low staff-to-client/student ratios. The Picture Exchange Communication System (Bondy & Frost, 2001) is a well-researched augmentative and alternative communication system used to teach functional communication. The Picture Exchange Communication System program is divided into six phases, with the first two phases requiring two adults to implement (i.e., one communication partner and one shadow). However, many clinics, schools, and other settings where Picture Exchange Communication System may be helpful do not have two staff members to run the intervention. In the current study, the therapists modified Phases 1 and 2 to be implemented with one clinician. Clients (ages 2 to 6) with little to no vocal behavior went through these modified Picture Exchange Communication System procedures. Therapists collected data on each client’s independent PECS exchanges and target vocalizations. Preliminary data shows that clients’ skill acquisition of the PECS exchanges using the modified Picture Exchange Communication System procedures mirrors the data of clients going through the standard Picture Exchange Communication System procedures (Ganz & Simpson, 2010).




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