Pyramid Consultant Jesseca Collins, M.Ed., BCBA, gives recommendations to support collaboration with families so they feel confident implementing PECS® at home.


Work, pay the bills, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, getting the kids to school/activities, working out, watching that favorite TV show…when in the world is there time to create communication opportunities?  Of course, we want all learners to communicate from the time they wake up in the morning until the time they go to bed at night.  While on paper this sounds great, in practice it can feel overwhelming. For learners using the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS®), we recommend consistency in implementing the protocol across environments.  Therefore, having the learner’s family on board is an important part of successful communication.


Have Open Communication and Collaboration – Start open communication with the family and support them in learning how to implement. Explaining PECS, modeling, coaching, and giving feedback are all important to have a family feel comfortable implementing.

  • Share videos with families of their learner communication with you at school or in the clinic.
  • Allow families to join scheduled school or clinic times to get coaching on how to implement PECS.
  • Do some practice with families remotely or on a home visit so you can show them how to implement.
  • Help the family by making pictures for them to use at home.
  • Share links to free videos about PECS
  • Encourage families to attend training to learn about PECS firsthand

Connect with Family Values – It is important to speak with the family about their goals and hopes/dreams for their child and family. As we encourage families to use and teach PECS® at home or in the community, we want to make sure this is something they are committed to for their child…not simply because we are telling them what to do. Making sure that the vocabulary we select and communication opportunities we help them create are functional and connected to their culture/community.

Start Small and Slowly Increase Expectations – Meet the family where they are and discuss what feels reasonable for implementation at home.

This can be done in a few simple steps:

Step 1 – Grab a piece of paper and make a list of the activities or things that happen around the house (e.g., dinner, TV time, bath, walks around the neighborhood, bedtime routine, car ride to school, running errands, playing with toys, etc.)

Step 2 – Next to each activity start a list of requests or comments that would fit within that activity.

Step 3 – Start small, make a few pictures from the list you created and set a goal of just creating 1-3 communication opportunities in the next week. Eventually we would like the learner to have their pictures in their communication book and for them to carry that around, but to start just have the pictures in the area of the house where you will use them.

Step 4 – Repeat and slowly increase the opportunities and vocabulary used around the house/community.

Check out this link for a variety of lesson ideas, activity plans, and free pictures.

Simplify – Don’t leave complicated data sheets or lesson plans unless this has been requested by the family.  Something as simple as post-it notes, or a piece of notebook paper can be used for families to just check off that they created a communication opportunity. If they created three one week, the next week you can aim for four or five!

Reinforce Performance/Success – Catch families following through on creating communication opportunities.  Reinforce them with acknowledgement, learner progress reports, or anything that functions as a “paycheck” for the family.

Successful implementation of communication throughout the day is a team-based approach. Ultimately, we cannot control what other members of the team are doing outside of our time with the learner. But, spending some time planning for, checking in on, and regularly communicating about what is going well, what is hard, what is confusing, or what is stopping families from implementing can go a long way in eventual collaboration in creating more integrated use of PECS® across environments.


For ongoing support with communication skills, AAC implementation, the PECS protocol, and the Pyramid Approach, join our online community on Facebook. Search “PECS User Support” on Facebook and request to join. This active group of over 30,000 professionals, parents, and caregivers is monitored by our Pyramid Consultants from around the globe daily!

Ready to start PECS? Visit our trainings offered section to see the full range of training supports of offer. Register for a PECS Level 1 Training so you can see first-hand the 6-phase protocol backed by research. Visit our Pyramid Online Learning Portal for a range of helpful short talks and PECS implementer certification.

Written By Jesseca Collins, M.Ed., BCBA

© Pyramid Educational Consultants, LLC. 2023