Many parents of Autism Spectrum children are undecided about using augmentative communication systems. This is because parents believe that these systems will become a crutch and the child will not learn to talk. This is not usually the case as augmentative communication systems enhance children's communication overall.
Start When Young The worst case scenario occurs when an Autism Spectrum child gets to the age of four with no ability to communicate whatsoever. Normally, frustration behavior and meltdowns occur with this situation. That is why it is best to have something in place in the event that speech therapy fails or is working, but too slowly. PECS is one option and sign language is another.
Full Family Integration If an Autism Spectrum child has an augmentative communication system in place, it is easier for him or her to fully participate. This is true in home and family life as well as school life. Children with Autism can have their augmentative communication system present at the dinner table and in other group scenarios. For school the augmentative system can allow them to communicate better with teachers and their own aide as well.
PECS stands for the Picture Exchange Communication System. For those who have never seen it, it is pictures that the child places upon a stick. The stick with the pictures on it is then given to an adult with whom the child desires to communicate. The communication on the stick may form words, groups of words or sentences, depending upon the Autism Spectrum child's level. Kids often think PECS is fun and they enjoy the interaction.
"Talking" Computers There are a number of computer programs that can voice for a child. The child normally needs to be able to spell single words to operate the more complex ones. There are more basic systems however that are picture based. The child only needs to touch the correct picture and the word will be voiced. Many of the systems will simultaneously print out a text version of the child's communication as well.
These are some of the aspects of augmentative or alternative communication systems. It is best to start using a child's system while he or she is still quite young. Augmentative communication systems allow for more full participation in family life. Both the PECS system and computers that "talk" are both great choices and can allow Autism Spectrum children a more satisfying, enjoyable life.