Making choices

A valuable way of promoting empowerment and autonomy is to allow the child to make choices.

Creating opportunities for choice throughout the day may give the child or young person a sense of control over his or her own lives and he or she may feel recognised as a responsible individual whose choices are respected.  It is not always possible to give choices at all times or in all daily activities but there are usually many opportunities throughout the day.  Examples may include:

  • Choosing a breakfast cereal in the morning
  • Picking between milk or water to drink at lunchtime
  • Selecting which pens and pencils to put in schoolbag
  • Deciding between school dinner or packed lunch, this choice will need to be made ahead of time
  • Choosing an activity after coming home from school, for example, listening to music in bedroom, reading a magazine, playing a game or going for a walk
  • Picking a film to see at the cinema
  • Selecting what clothes to wear at the weekend

Making choices may be challenging for people with autism as it requires flexible thinking, which is sometimes an area of difficulty.  These tips, however, may help you to support your child to make choices:

  • Make the choices visual: If you present choices verbally, your child may find this difficult to process. If the choices are instead presented visually, your child will have more time to process the options and select his or her choice. Examples of presenting choices visually include:
    • Set out objects to choose from, a variety of cereal boxes at breakfast time; clothes when getting dressed.
    • Use photographs of the choices and present them on a board e.g. photos of different activities; photos of places the child can go for outings
    • Written choices e.g. cinema listings, menus
  • Consider how many options your child can cope with: start with just two options and then gradually increase these over time
  • You can control the options: Only present choices, which you can definitely make available to the child and options, which you want them to pick.

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