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Choice Making

Increase on-task engagement

Importance of Choices: Choices can increase the independence, motivation and on-task behavior while decreasing the challenging behaviors and rigidity pattern seen for children with behavioral problems.

Kind of choices: You can offer choices for example:

  • Between activities (coloring or reading) or
  • Within activities ( red crayon or blue crayon)

Choices can also be incorporated during the daily activity schedule or also during the work situations. They can be choices of

  • Whom to work/play with
  • Where to work/play with
  • When to work/play
  • Whether to do an activity or not

Offering Choices: The best way to offer is through the “forces choice method”. This means asking a question that offers two specific options. For example, If you have a child who does not have consistent demands and hard for you to manage a behavior. You can use a Forced choice method “Do you want to watch a movie or read a book”? vs asking “What do you want”? This provides the opportunity to the child to pick the activity and still parents got to pick them which they had available at the time.

The timing: When one should give choices?
Anytime, mealtime, chore or daily schedule, leisure time, in community, or during the therapy sessions are some great times to offer choices. The choice making can be incorporated at anytime for any activity you are having a struggle.

Some examples of choice making (Strategies for parents for mealtime)

  • Do you want to have potatoes or carrots with your bread (within activity)?
  • Do you want juice to drink or nothing to drink (within activity, a choice of refuse)?
  • Do you want mom to put dinner on your plate or do you want to do yourself (who)?
  • Do you want to sit on the end or on the side of the table (where)?
  • Do you want to eat now or in 1 minute (when)?

Researches behind the choice-making strategies (ABA Perspective)
Study: This investigation was conducted in an effort to systematically extend the emerging data base having to do with choice-making opportunities and the behavior of students with disabilities. In particular, the current analyses examined the effects of choice-making on the problem behavior and task engagement of three high school students with intellectual disabilities as the students performed domestic and vocational activities.

Findings of the study: Multiple baseline and reversal designs demonstrated that the choice conditions reduced problem behaviors and increased task engagement for all participants. Data having to do with student affect and task productivity were less consistent. The findings on the relationship between choice making and problem behavior replicate and extend a growing literature on the desirable effects of choice-making for individuals with disabilities. The results are discussed in terms of recent developments in behavioral support, as well as the need for ongoing conceptual and applied research.


  1. Pinellas County Schools, St. Petersburg, FL
  2. Division of Applied Research and Educational Support, Department of Child and Family Studies, Florida Mental Health Institute, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
  3. Department of Child & Family Studies, Florida Mental Health Institute, University of South Florida, 13301 Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, 33612 Tampa, FL
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