PECS® is an Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) with over 190 published articles providing evidence of the effectiveness of the Picture Exchange Communication System® (PECS®). See the full list of research articles here. The Pyramid Approach to Education®, a systematic framework for building effective learning settings, incorporates strategies that are evidence-based. See table below.
What does ‘evidence-based practice’ (EBP) mean? There are varying definitions of EBP among the fields of special education, speech language pathology, and behavior analysis. In Evidence-based Practices in Education (2012) authors Cook, Smith, and Tankersley define EBP as practices that are shown to be effective through high-quality research to meaningfully improve student outcomes.
The American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) defines EBP as the integration of clinical expertise/expert opinion, evidence gathered from the scientific literature and from client observation and data collection, as well as client/patient/caregiver perspectives. “When all three components of EBP are considered together, clinicians can make informed, evidence-based decisions and provide high-quality services reflecting the interests, values, needs, and choices of individuals with communication disorders” (ASHA).
In the peer-reviewed journal Behavior Analysis, Slocum et al. (2014) define EBP as a model of professional decision-making in which practitioners integrate the best available evidence with client values/context and clinical expertise in order to provide services for their clients.
The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder (NPDC on ASD) identifies inclusion criteria for EBPs based on the necessity of having a sufficient number of empirical demonstrations of efficacy through high quality, peer-reviewed journal articles and replications of those demonstrations by independent research groups. To be identified as evidence-based, a category of practice must have at least:
- 2 high quality group design studies conducted by 2 different research groups, or
- 5 high quality single case design studies conducted by 3 different research groups and involving a total of 20 participants across studies, or
- a combination of 1 high quality group design study and 3 high quality single case design studies conducted by two independent research groups.
Highlighted below are organizations and peer-reviewed articles that recognize PECS® as an Evidence-Based Practice.
- The National Professional Development Center (NPDC) on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) adopted PECS as one of 27 Evidence-Based Practices (2008, 2014)
- National Clearinghouse on Autism Evidence and Practice review team, Steinbrenner, J., Hume, K., Odom, S., et al. (2020), evaluated evidence practices sited by NPDC.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention
- The Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT)
- Ontario Association for Behaviour Analysis
- Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies
- Indiana Resource Center for Autism
- Autism Focused Intervention Resources and Modules (AFIRM)
- Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Standards that apply specifically to PECS
- One review published in the journal Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth concluded that PECS is evidence-based practice for Communication, Socialization, and Behavior (2010)
- The journal Pediatrics concluded that PECS is Evidence-Based Practice, as well as the only Evidence-Based Augmentative/Alternative Communication System, for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (2012)
- Well-Controlled Research Reported in Peer-Reviewed Journals has shown that PECS is more effective than “education as usual” for improving communication and other skills in school settings (2011)
Pyramid Approach to Education
The Pyramid Approach to Education®, a systematic framework for building effective learning settings, incorporates strategies that have been recognized by National Clearinghouse on Autism Evidence and Practice (NCAEP) as evidence-based practices.