Using Attributes with PECS

Using Attributes with PECS

If you don’t know what the Picture Exchange Communication System® is then start with my post about phase one.  For those that do in this post I am going to look at attributes.

We all have preferences for different things I would prefer a chocolate biscuit over a plain one. It is important that we can communicate these preferences. Using attributes with PECS helps to expand vocabulary and enables our kids to be more specific about their requests.

Using attributes will enable requesting of specific items and help to expand vocabulary. For example ‘I want rectangle biscuit’ rather than just ‘I want biscuit’.

PECS Shape requesting
PECS shape requesting

Once someone has learnt to structure sentences in phase 4 you can introduce attributes to expand their sentences.

What are attributes?

An attribute is simply a quality or characteristic of a person, place or thing.  Essentially attributes are ways we may describe something.

Attributes include:

Implementing attributes with PECS

It is important to know what the child’s preferences are.  Some Children would want either biscuit whilst others have a clear preference for the type of biscuit. Again some children would care what colour thing they get and others would not have preference. 

Colour commenting with PECs
PECS commenting on colours

Understanding what our kids prefer will be really helpful to implement attributes.  Essentially we need our kids to be motivated to ask for the specific item.  To start with we also need to be choosing from items that are essentially the same but with one difference such as colour.  

Colouring with PECS
Requesting colours

Implementing attributes is a combination of the skills we have learnt in phase 3 (discrimination) and phase 4 (sentence structure).  The first step is to introduce a three part sentence with no discrimination required – i.e. I want blue bendy toy.

Sentence strip
sentence strip

Then just like phase 3a introduce discrimination between a preferred and non-preferred item.  Once you are happy with this you can move on just like phase 3b to a 3 part sentence choosing between two preferred items.


Once you have implemented attributes you can start to expand vocabulary and increase complexity. Attributes are a key component when you get to commenting with PECS too.

Ideas for attributes with PECS:

There is so much you can do with attributes:

If you are looking for more ideas this handout from PECS on Materials for attribute and commenting lessons is really helpful. Have you got any good ideas? Share them in the comments below.

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