Improving Decision-Making Skills for Children with Autism

Decision-making skills for kids with autism can be very challenging considering you can’t always be exactly sure that they’re picking the choice that they actually want. Usually, kids with autism who have trouble with decision-making, pick the first choice or the last choice and don’t really choose what the preferred option is.

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In a recent Facebook Q&A, I had someone ask “Do you have any tips on how to teach choices? My son typically repeats the last item said 9 out of 10 times.” So decision-making is really a tough thing. A lot of kids pick the first choice if you give them two and a lot of kids pick the second choice when given two or three. The best thing to do is to provide a visual of the options, but that’s not always convenient or possible. You do want the child to be tuning in and picking his favorite choice. One of the steps to making better choices is to use a visual, a visual choice board, or a visual of pulling out the corn chips and the banana and having the child reach for one and then say the word or say the word and then reach to get it.

The other thing I think I show in some videos in the early learner courses is say you have pretzels and corn chips. A lot of people use tackle boxes and things. I don’t like that because even the intent of reaching in the tackle box, you don’t really know what they’re going for. But if you have pretzels and corn chips in baggies on opposite sides of the table, and then maybe you have the water in the back, you can see intent.  You can see they’re looking and they’re reaching and then you can kind of stop them and have them say or sign. So those are all good things to think about when you’re having children make choices.

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The other thing to think about is if they can’t make a choice intraverbally, like do you want the corn chips or the banana? It’s probably because their intraverbals are really weak. So if you’re part of the course, you have an intraverbal bonus video, which I would highly recommend. I recommend the intermediate assessment I created too. The intraverbal subtest is hugely important and the self-care checklist, but a strengthening of the intraverbals will help choices as well. And then the final thing is Lucas really had a problem with picking the first response. So we did a couple of things to improve it and it has really improved now. One of the things was he’s pretty good at intraverbals. He knows a banana’s yellow. He knows colors and those sorts of things. So we could ask him questions with choices is a banana, red, green or yellow? If he always picks the last response, you want to put it in the middle and then you want to put it upfront.

What I found with Lucas is a lot of people were giving him choices and putting the one they thought he wanted in the first position. So he wasn’t really paying attention. So having them answer questions with choices, intraverbally if they’re good at, say colors was a technique that helped. Also sometimes giving him three choices instead of two helped. And the final thing that helped Lucas was his behavior analyst came up with a plan that he would repeat the three choices and then make his choice. So if we said you want goldfish crackers, pretzels or corn chips, he actually likes all three of those. I’m not promoting junk food, but just to use those as an example so he would have to repeat goldfish, pretzels, or corn chips. And then make a choice. So it kind of prevents that knee jerk reaction.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s topic on decision-making. I’d love it if you would leave me a comment, give me a thumbs up, share this video/article with others who may benefit. And for more information, you can attend a free online workshop at marybarbara.com/workshop and I’ll see you right here next week.

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