Monday, 1 March 2010

I can... make choices!

We make many choices every day of our lives. For students who use AAC, choice making provides an opportunity to express preferences and to have some control in their daily activities. Often, students rely on caregivers to provide them with choices throughout their day. Caregivers need to know how to present those choices and how the student will communicate their responses.

Examples of activities in which choices can be made:
  • Picking a reading buddy
  • Deciding which part of a snack to eat first
  • Choosing who to sit next to
  • Choosing a book to read
  • Choosing a the next colour for my artwork
  • Picking who to write my letter to
  • Choosing which shirt to wear
  • Telling you what music I want to listen to
  • Choosing a toy to play with

So many choices…. Students benefit from multiple opportunities to make choices.
  • Making an Activity Choice: A student can choose an activity from a group (e.g. book, music, colouring)
  • Selecting within the Activity: A student may select a specific book, song or colouring page.
  • Participating in the Activity: Students can have some control in the activity by asking a caregiver to do something e.g. let me see the pictures, turn the page, I want a red crayon, etc.
  • Indicating a different choice – Students need to be able to tell you that what they want is not in the list provided. Include a message such as “Something else”. For example, he/she may want the purple crayon but the choices are red, blue and green.

Symbol Types and Hierarchy: This list provides the order of the easiest representation of an object for a student to understand.
  • Real Objects
  • Color photographs
  • Black and white photographs
  • Miniature Objects
  • Picture Communication Symbols (PCS)
  • Printed words
  • Students can use a variety of methods to make choices including pointing, looking at symbols (eye gaze), responding vocally to a list of spoken options, and using a speech generating device.
  •  It is important to ensure that the people who are working with the student know how to present choices and understand the student’s responses. 
  • Remember that the best way to encourage others to present choices is to show them how it is done – model choice making techniques as often as you can for others to see. 
  • Offering choices can be a simple thing to do, but may make a world of difference to an individual.
No-Tech Ideas
  • Try attaching your symbols to a piece of Bristol board with a line of Velcro attached to it. This allows you to offer more than 2 symbol choices at any one time.
  • Use a small penlight to highlight the choices as you name them – this can help to focus a person’s attention on one symbol at a time, and does not block the view of the symbol.
  • Use choice making as a time for your student to explore other language functions. For example, he can select between 2 or more questions to ask a buddy.
Light Tech Ideas
  • Record two choices into two simple devices, such as a Big Mac or Step by Step
High Tech Ideas
  • When your student’s vocabulary is changing remind him/her to listen or look at all of the choices before selecting. If he or she continues to choose the first one, try “swapping” the buttons around or programming a “wait” button to encourage the student to listen to all of the choices.
I Can … be a star!

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Upcoming Events

May 17 – 21, 2010
University of Toronto, Mississauga Campus
Mississauga, ON

Participants will engage in an intensive five-day course focused on literacy instruction and assessment, classroom problem-solving, and use of assistive technologies to support the literacy learning of children with severe communication impairments.

Contact Bridges Canada for more information or to register.1-800-353-1107 or