Choice making is an effective intervention for increasing the active participation of individuals with autism.  For example, providing choice-making opportunities has demonstrated successful outcomes to manage problem behavior.  Choices indicating personal preferences can also function as powerful reinforcers.  Instructors and parents can use various options of choice to encourage individual performance.  For example, if a student has a chance to choose preferred rewards, a target behavior is more likely to occur.

Video Demonstration Strategy

Credits: Amanda Arnold Elementary, Manhattan KS

How To Use

In many cases, choice making is used with other visual supports (i.e., activity schedules or picture boards) and verbal or physical prompts to increase engagement in activities.  Peck et al. (1996) described five types of adult responses in their procedure of choice-making treatment:  (a) providing choices (i.e., adults give a choice to a student by saying “Which on e do you want?  You choose”); (b) choice prompts (i.e., adults provide verbal or physical prompts by indicating the options or by placing the student’s hand on the choice board or objects); (c) task prompts (i.e., adults direct the option by saying “Take this” and providing physical guidance); (d) social interactions (i.e., positive social contact with the student, including praise, talking about the objects or activities, smiles, tickles, or hugs); and (e) redirection or block (i.e., restricting the student’s hand or correcting his posture to see the options when the student’s response was inappropriate or irrelevant to the task).

When To Use

Choice making can be used throughout the daily routine.  Parents or teachers can gradually expand the number of choices based on the student’s needs and level of functioning, and students can respond in various ways by pointing at objects or pictures or by verbalizing their choices.  Choice making can be a reinforcer as well as a desired behavior associated with other reinforcers (i.e., when a student responds appropriately to making a choice, an instructor allows the student to play with a computer for 10 minutes).

The following are general steps for implementing choice making:
  • Assess the student’s needs prior to teaching choice making .  It may be necessary to teach prerequisite skills if he does not understand the association between a choice (a stimulus) and a consequence of choice making.
  • Identify the target behavior to increase or decrease.
  • Provide choices.
  • Evaluate the procedure and the student’s progress.


  • AAC devices can be very useful, especially for students who have difficulties using verbal communication skills to make their choices. Based on students’ abilities, pictures, symbols, and tangible objects may be used.


Ashley, a second grader, engages in severe self-injurious behavior (i.e., head or ear hitting), tantrums and meltdowns, and throwing things. During free play time, she usually roams the room and does not engage in play with her peers. She has limited verbal language and uses simple symbols, such as yes/no pictures, by pointing.
Ms. Collins prioritized the target behavior as head hitting, defined as Ashley using her hand(s) and making forceful contact with her head. Ms. Collins observed Ashley and conducted a functional behavior assessment to identify the antecedent and the consequence of the behavior. She found that Ashley almost always engaged in self-injuriious behavior when given a difficult task.

Ms. Collins planned to provide choice-making opportunities for Ashley when she is given a task. The appropriate choice response was defined as pointing to one of two pictures when the teacher presents the picture choice-board to Ashley. Ms. Collins also used verbal and physical prompts based on Ashley’s response. When Ashley performs the appropriate response, she is given free time to roam the room for five minutes. After collecting data about the frequency of target behavior, Ms. Collins and paraprofessionals were excited to see how Ashley’s self-injurious behavior, as well as emotional meltdowns, had decreased.

Choice making is an effective intervention for increasing the active participation of individuals with autism by allowing the indivdual to make a choice between at least 2 items/activities/reinforcers, etc.

Target: Texas Autism Resource Guide for Effective Teaching
TSLAT. (n.d.). Retrieved August 29, 2016, from 

National Professional Development Center on ASD
Autism PDC. (n.d.). Retrieved August 29, 2016, from