Giving choices is one of the most effective therapy techniques I’ve ever used. Thank you, Hallie, for inviting me to guest post on this topic! While I was organizing my thoughts, I realized that I had quite a few of them on this topic! So, I am giving you the highlights in this post and invite you to join me at my blog this month if you are intrigued and want to read more.
1.Students are more motivated to learn when they are interested in the activity or topic. Some students, especially those with internal struggles that are consuming their thoughts, will only work if they see that there is something in it for them.
2.Expressing choices encourages communication as a way to get what you want and gives students practice with solving problems verbally. This is especially important for students with troubling behaviors.
3.People like to have some control of their daily activities. Students are no different!
4.Students who have difficulty learning often aren’t interested in even trying unless there is a motivation for it. Letting them choose the next activity is like us earning our paychecks at work!
5.Students who have very limited communication skills need to be provided choices. Then they need to be taught appropriate ways to request the things that they want.
Tips for providing choices in therapy
- Have both more preferred and less preferred toys or activities that are ready to go for younger or lower functioning students. This lets them make choices and lets you incorporate quick, less preferred activities to build their tolerance levels.
- Use visual schedules, whether token boards, first/then boards or a sequence of events, to let the students see exactly when their choice will be available.
- Have different levels of difficulty in the materials for older students with behavioral difficulties. On ‘hoodies up’ kind of days, you then have some easier, shorter and/or more fun ways to address the goals. Let your students know that you understand they are having a hard time and ask them which of the materials they think they can handle that session. This opens the door for students to discuss whatever is bothering them and, hopefully, will get the students to engage.
- Let older students with special needs have an activity of their own choice after their required work is completed. This accomplishes a few things. First, it is an immediate reinforcement for their efforts during that session. It lets you remind them that they are making the choice to not have “__” if their behaviors are keeping them from completing the work. On good days, It provides an opportunity to see your students using language in a more naturalistic way while they are playing a game or having a conversation at the end of a session. Last, it can provide you with a few minutes of less focused time to be able to jot a note or clean up for the next session.
- Incorporate choices in a longer term reinforcement method, such as earning points to be saved and used for prizes or privileges after a time interval, as another strategy. Some students only need this, or no system at all, to be cooperative. Lucky SLPs! For students who are not so internally motivated, having choices that they have to work for and wait for, without being sure exactly what they are getting in the end, helps them to learn to delay gratification and make the responsible choice to do their work just because they are supposed to be learning.Thanks again, Hallie, for this opportunity! I’m continuing the theme of choices at my blog this month and welcome all of your readers to join me there!I’m sure that you offer choices during your therapy sessions, too! What have you found that works for you?
Looking to catch up on other posts from this guest post series? Check out this post on using textbooks in speech therapy!