PECS With Toddlers?
Alternative and Augmentative Communication is no doubt helpful and can aide children to communicate.
But too often these days I work with young children with autism where behavior therapists immediately recommend A Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) as the primary means of communication.
I have seen hundreds of young children that may be on the Autism Spectrum Disorder, and I push verbal communication relentlessly with the supplementation of pictures. Although I have worked with some wonderful ABA therapists that make it a point to collaborate and get my opinion on how to encourage language, but too often decisions about language and goals on using a primary AAC/PECS is used. The parent gets mixed messages.
I say, "Let's push for verbal language and use the pictures as an aide." But the parent heard from other team members that the child should pull a picture off of a board and hand it to the adult when they need something. What about eye gaze, a smile, a grunt. These shared and social communication examples are just as important to teach a child with Autism.
This is such a frustrating topic to me as a speech therapist. I think it's important to collaborate with parents and see what they want for their child. If it is to use words to communicate well then I really work hard at that and use a variety of strategies to encourage that as much as possible.
Of course I use pictures, I also use music, toys. And books that will motivate the child to speak
But if we immediately go to a purely AAC approach when a child is a toddler then we are not flexing the child's "speech muscles" to see what they are capable of.
Exhausting all measures, evaluating what works, and practice will truly reveal what the best methods will be to get the child to speak or communicate. I say give speech a chance! Knowing when AAC is necessary and when it should be used to assist your client on the journey to the verbal world is our job.