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Augmentative and Alternative Communication Devices Theraplay’s Quakertown Center Manager Courtney Klinger, SLP, with the PECS system

January 2016, Quakertown, PA. Imagine not being able to communicate with those around you. You know what you want, but cannot verbalize those wants or needs. At Theraplay, Inc. speech language pathologists regularly work with children who face this challenge. Communicating with others is such a crucial skill, and because of this, Courtney Klinger, a speech language pathologist, recently became Level I PECS certified, which allows her to better serve the patients she treats.

PECS, or the Picture Exchange Communication System, is a functional communication system that uses a variety of pictures to help communicate a user’s needs. This method can be used to treat a variety of ages and diagnoses, making it a perfect tool for Theraplay’s therapists. Because of the wide range of diagnoses seen at Theraplay, the versatility of PECS is invaluable.

PECS works by teaching a child, through prompts, to choose a corresponding picture when they need or use an item. The prompts are slowly phased down, until the child is able to pick up, reach and hand a picture to their therapist, parent or caregiver on their own. Distance is then added, so the patient has to make multiple trips between who they are communicating with and their PECS. More images are added to the available options so that the patient learns to differentiate between a preferred and non-preferred image.

Courtney, who has worked at Theraplay for over four years, took her PECS training a step further. Because of its importance, she earned a Level I certification, which means she has been trained in the foundation, as well as multiple phases of PECS. In addition to using this information to help her patients, Courtney also trains occupational and speech therapists within Theraplay. Through co-treats, where a patient sees two therapists at once to work on two different skills, she is able to educate patients and their families. “Helping children express themselves is one of the most rewarding experiences ever! You can see their faces light up when they have successfully communicated their needs and wants,” says Courtney.

Theraplay was founded by physical therapist Lisa Mackell in 1991. Since then, they have been providing physical, occupational, speech and feeding therapies to children from birth through age 21. For more information, visit

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