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The importance of providing choice

Providing choices to children throughout the day, prior to and during instruction is a simple Antecedent-Based Intervention strategy that has been demonstrated to reduce escape maintained challenging behaviour. Antecedent Based Interventions are evidence-based and proactive strategies designed to reduce the occurrence of challenging behaviour and are used daily at First Bridge Centre. Research shows that choice making is an effective strategy and is a simple means of promoting self-determination in early years education. Children with developmental and/or intellectual disabilities who can make choices have been shown to have improved social interaction skills and are likely to show higher task persistence than children who do not have the opportunity to make choices. Such decision making can also facilitate later problem-solving skills. Choice making has also been linked to greater independence and improved quality of life.

Making choices is a part of every person’s life, however, adults tend to make various decisions for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), leaving them with few or no choices throughout the day. Providing children with choice and verbal reinforcement will help establish positive behaviours and motivation.

Imagine the number of choices you make in a single day.  It often begins with choosing whether to hit snooze button on your alarm, what clothes you will wear to work and deciding what you will eat for breakfast. It often includes larger choices such as what you want to do with your life, how you will spend your money or where you want to live. We often forget just how many choices we have in our everyday lives, and we also forget that making our own choices is a basic human right.

Now can you imagine what life would be like if you had no control over what you ate, where you went, or what you did? Due to primary and secondary characteristics of ASD, making choice is not always an intuitive part of the day for many. Some children may not understand what their choices are while some may not be able to communicate those choices to others. Some days we get so caught up in our routines that we forget to offer or provide choice to our children. Providing opportunities to make choices allows children to develop a sense of self, build self-esteem, improve problem solving skills, assist with learning the responsibilities of making choices, and learn how to reduce conflict. Like everyone else, a child with ASD needs opportunities to make choices throughout the day.  

There are many simple ways we can implement choice making in our children’s lives. From which colour socks they want to wear, what fruit they would like with lunch or which book to read at bedtime. Increasing the number of choices provides your children with more control over their day to day lives and begins to teach independence skills that we work so hard to facilitate.

If you need more ideas about how to implement choice-making or are curious about how we incorporate choice-making at the centre, please get in touch!

– Casey Minifie (BCBA), First Bridge Centre