Choice making is an effective intervention for increasing the active participation of individuals with autism. For example, providing choice-making opportunities has demonstrated successful outcomes to manage problem behavior. Choices indicating personal preferences can also function as powerful reinforcers. Instructors and parents can use various options of choice to encourage individual performance. For example, if a student has a chance to choose preferred rewards, a target behavior is more likely to occur.
Instructors can gradually expand the number of choices based on the student’s needs and level of functioning, and students can respond in various ways by pointing at objects or pictures or by verbalizing their choices. Choice making can be a reinforcer as well as a desired behavior associated with other reinforcers (i.e., when a student responds appropriately to making a choice, an instructor allows the student to play with a computer for 10 minutes).
In many cases, choice making is used with other visual supports (i.e., activity schedules or picture boards) and verbal or physical prompts to increase engagement in activities. Peck et al. (1996) described five types of adult responses in their procedure of choice-making treatment: (a) providing choices (i.e., adults give a choice to a student by saying “Which one do you want? You choose”); (b) choice prompts (i.e., adults provide verbal or physical prompts by indicating the options or by placing the student’s hand on the choice board or objects); (c) task prompts (i.e., adults direct the option by saying “Take this” and providing physical guidance); (d) social interactions (i.e., positive social contact with the student, including praise, talking about the objects or activities, smiles, tickles, or hugs); and (e) redirection or block (i.e., restricting the student’s hand or correcting his posture to see the options when the student’s response was inappropriate or irrelevant to the task).
The following are general steps for implementing choice making:
Assess the student’s needs prior to teaching choice making . It may be necessary to teach prerequisite skills if he does not understand the association between a choice (a stimulus) and a consequence of choice making.
Identify the target behavior to increase or decrease.
Evaluate the procedure and the student’s progress.
Choice making can be used at school or at home.
Choosing own clothes or shoes daily at home
Selecting own rewards (juice or apple)
Identifying activities or materials for a given activity
Deciding menu at a restaurant
Choosing colors for writing or painting
AAC devices can be very useful, especially for students who have difficulties using verbal communication skills to make their choices. Based on students’ abilities, pictures, symbols, and tangible objects may be used.
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This paper (from the Autism Society of North Carolina ) provides a sound rationale for including choice as part of the educational programs that are developed for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism Society of North Carolina
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Jensen, C., Lydersen, T., Johnson, P., Weiss, S., Marconi, M., Cleave, M., & Weber, P. (2012). Choosing staff members reduces time in mechanical restraint due to self-injurious behaviour and requesting restraint. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 25, 282-287.
Koegel, L.K., Singh, A.K., Koegel, R.L. (2010). Improving motivation for academics in children with autism. Journal of Autism and other Developmental Disorders, 40, 1057-1066.
Shorn, KA, Faggella-Luby, M.N., Bae, S.J. & Wehmeyer, M.L (2009) The Effects of Student Choices on Academic PerformanceJournal of Positive Behavior Interventions 11: 110-128
Tiger, J.H., Toussaint, K.A., Roath, C.T. (2010). An evaluation of the value of choice-making opportunities in single-operant arrangements: Simple fixed- and progressive-ration schedules. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 43(3), 519-524.
Amanda Arnold Elementary, Manhattan KS
This material was developed under a grant from the Colorado Department of Education.