There are many settings where using a choice board for autistic children can be beneficial. It allows a student to communicate their basic desires to those around them. In addition, it is a good positive step to social interaction that has a built in positive reinforcement where the student receives what they would like. When making the choice board it is necessary to consider how the student will best understand what choices are available and what materials will provide the most appropriate board for the individual student.
Choice boards provide the opportunity for communication in a variety of settings. In order to be prepared, each setting that it will be used in should be defined. Some examples where its use would be appropriate are during leisure time when work is completed, ordering a meal in the cafeteria and making choices while participating in art class. By defining the situations where the choice board will be used in advance, it is easier to determine what choices need to be available on the board.
When making a choice board for children with autism, it is necessary to consider what they will best understand. While some students are able to read words representing what they would like, others might need simpler pictures or photos. Some students might respond best to an object that they associate with the activity or item that they desire. It is important to make sure that whatever materials are used, the student understands what they represent.
Making the Board
There are many ways to actually make the choice board. Pictures can be placed in a photo album and the student will be required to find the picture and point to what they want. Objects or pictures could be velcroed to a poster board. The student will then be asked to pull off what they want and hand it to the appropriate person. Where possible, the choice board should be located in the setting where the student will be receiving what they choose. However, once the student understands how it works and what the individual choices are, this might not be necessary.
Because this is likely to be a new skill for a student with autism, it is important to take some time to teach them how to use it. This can be done in several ways depending on the cognitive ability of the student. The simplest way is to have two desired items or snacks readily available. The student will then be prompted to use the choice board to pick one of the two items and given access to the choice immediately. It is important in all situations, to follow through with what the student chooses in order to teach the cause and effect of the board.
In order to ensure its use, find a way to make the choice board versatile enough to work in a variety of settings. This will increase the chance of it being taken along. It is also necessary to make it easy to carry without losing parts and not so bulky that it causes a student to be ostracized in a social setting. Because the idea is to teach students to advocate for themselves and let people around them know what they desire, it is important to remove choices that will not be available. This will allow teachers and other support people to be able to reward the use of the board in every situation.
This article is based on my years of teaching experience