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Chua, B. & Poon, K. (2018). Studying the implementation of PECS in a naturalistic special education school setting

Education and Child Psychology, 35, 60-75.

Abstract: Aims: This study sought to investigate the predictors of spontaneous Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) use in a naturalistic school setting. Method: The study recruited 44 students (36 boys and eight girls), aged between 6 to 18 years and their teachers (26 teachers and two teaching assistants). Teaching staff completed measures of student’s communicative ability, autism symptomology and PECS abilities. Teachers also provided information of their PECS training history and PECS teaching experience. Findings: Stepwise Multiple Regression Analysis revealed that: (1) teacher’s intentional pre-planning of PECS; (2) context in which PECS is used; (3) PECS phase level; and (4) the number of months of PECS teaching experience teachers had significantly predicted spontaneous PECS use. Child-dependent variables such as the severity of student’s autism symptomology and level of student’s mastery and age did not significantly predict spontaneous PECS use. Limitations: The limitations of this study are the small sample size, teachers’ self-reported bias, and the lack of exploring other potential factors. Conclusions: The findings of the study highlight the importance for professionals, such as Educational Psychologists (EPs), to consider implementation factors that will impact the efficacy of intervention. In this study, it was the orchestration of how PECS is taught that had significantly predicted better PECS spontaneous use, rather than within-child factors. This suggests that PECS is suitable for a wide range of ASD learners. Additionally, it provides new insights for EPs to emphasise certain components over others during PECS teachers’ trainings.

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