The Power of Choice!

Hello Everyone,

The extended school year program at my school is in full swing and I have three new students in my multiply-disabled classroom.  When I receive new students I need to gather baseline behavior and academic data to make sure that I’m providing the appropriate supports and behavioral systems to increase growth.  I have younger learners this year (grades K-2nd) and we’re working on reinforcing appropriate behaviors and pairing our classroom and staff with reinforcing items to increase motivation.

What do you work for?  Many times, parents or staff members will ask me WHY my students work for preferred items and/or edibles.  I answer them with “Why do you work here?”  I’m sure it’s because you love education and you want to inspire learners, but when it comes down to it you need a paycheck to support your family and pay the bills.  If the school failed to pay you chances are you’d have to quit and find another job.  Our students are working towards developing the intrinsic motivation that learning new skills provides but until we get to that point we want to provide immediate reinforcement to increase their academic, social and behavioral skill levels.    We want them to feel motivated to learn otherwise we’re going to see an increase in maladaptive behaviors and a decrease in academic and social skills.

How do we know what our students want to work for?   I always create a take home survey for my parents to fill out so that I can better get to know their son/daughter.  I also allow my students to explore the classroom when they first enter and write notes about the different items that interest them.  Once the students feel comfortable in the classroom and being around the new staff members I perform a preference assessment.  This assessment tool provides data about the most reinforcing items for my learners.  When I first started in the field of ABA this was a tedious pen and paper and Excel graphing process.  Thanks to the world of technology you can now use an application right on your SMARTphone or tablet to perform the assessment.  I use the application “Preference and Reinforcer Assessment.”  A link for the application as well as a sample of the preference assessment post-data graph are shown below.


   Preference & Reinforcer Assessment

     Finally,  once I’ve gathered this information and completed the preference assessment I create Choice Boards for my students.  These boards are laminated and Velcroed and taken everywhere with my students.  Please see the example below.



Choice boards are a simple and extremely powerful tool that can help our students to stay motivated and on task.  They are really simple to create and I’ve created a *FREEBIE* Choice Board product for you to use in your classroom or with you son/daughter.  The product comes with a description of how to create the choice boards as well as three templates to choose from.  The students in my classroom are presented with their choice boards and select a picture of the item that they would like to work for.  The picture that they select is then placed on their token board and once they earn all of their tokens they earn a break with that desired item.    Click the link below and be sure to check out the additional products that I’ve created.

Choice Board Product *FREEBIE*

     Once again,  thank you for joining me on my journey and please check back for updates.  I appreciate any feedback and/or questions!



Dana Grasso

(Author of Autism Zen)