Making our own choices is a key part of personal development, self-determination, self-esteem, and judgment. Students with severe communication and/or physical impairments do not automatically have access to choice making opportunities. They cannot easily go to get an item or shout out a request. Therefore, choice making opportunities need to be structured and intentionally presented in the same contexts as they would be with typically developing children. These may include but are certainly not limited to:
- what to have for snack
- what to wear
- who to play with
- how to wear their hair
- when to take a break
- what to say to grandma on the phone
- how to compose an email to a friend
- where to go on the weekend
- what to do after school
- what story to tell their classmates
Choice making from an early age creates a foundation for critical thinking, increased problem solving abilities, and increasing independence.
Again, this strategy, if a match for a studentís needs, skills and existing strategies, can further expand a multi-modal communication system.
A choice of one! Students need options. They need to have many opportunities to make choices about numerous aspects of their lives.
Limited to requests or for answering questions in school!
Choices may be presented via objects, environmental cues, icons/pictures, hands, fingers, or verbally (see Partner-Assisted Scanning (Live Voice).
Here are some important elements of choice making:
- Present choices clearly and without unnecessary verbiage
- Consider the student’s receptive vocabulary and use appropriate language when presenting choices
- Allow the option of “something else” or “I don’t know”
- Consider how many choices to present at a time: 1 selection is NOT a choice; 2 may not be enough; 5 may be too many at one time
- Consider visual issues and placement of tangible choices
- Know how long to wait for the student to initiate a response
- Know when and how to confirm choices with the student
- Don’t give a choice with which you cannot follow through