For some of us making a choice is really easy. I always know what my preference is and I rarely have an issue making my choice clear (unless I am trying to be polite). However not everyone finds making choices easy and many will find it difficult to express their choices. For many kids communication and comprehension can be an issue, this is an area I know well as both my kids have communication difficulties. In this post I am going to share one of our favourite choice boards for our favourite CBeebies TV shows, along with how to make your own. I am also going to briefly discuss why choice making is important.
Supporting Choice Making
Making decisions is an important part of life and this can be an area of difficulty for many on the autistic spectrum. The earlier we can introduce choice making and support our kids to be able to make choices independently the better.
Participation and engagement can be a challenge with some young children. An important way to involve a child is to understand what motivates them and what they will have a preference for. Food is a great area where most people have preferences but one of the best motivators for kids is the TV so we may as well use this to our advantage and encourage some communication development before we put it on.
Using Pictures to make choices
When a child is learning to communicate it can be very frustrating not understanding what they want / need for everyone involved. Pictures and visuals are a great way to support communication with children who are not speaking. Picture discrimination is a skill needed before you can use a choice board so some may need to start there first.
Pictures are also a great way to help visualise a choice. A big barrier to making a choice is knowing what the options are. We need to provide some guidance as questions like ‘what do you want to eat’ can have so many responses it becomes an overwhelming choice. I would recommend just providing a few options to start with to keep early choice making really simple (and rewarding).
My 6 year old is non-verbal and uses the Picture Exchange Communication System® (PECS) so we are very used to using pictures to communicate in our house. Having said that nearly all the kids that visit my house love to use them because it gives them with more confidence. Pictures are clear and less open to interpretation than speech.
Making your own choice boards
You can have all sorts of choice boards for example:
- Food boards (snacks, dinner, treats, drinks)
- Emotions / feelings to choose the one that fits their mood / situation
- Books to choose their own bedtime story
- Toys / puzzle / game boards
- Where to go out
Once you have decided what board you plan to make you then need to gather the pictures, this is easily done using Google images. You may find boards already made up on sites like Pinterest which is a great place to start. However I often find making your own to suit what you have and the child’s preferences works best.
If you want to start out with our CBeebies Choice board you can download a free copy here.
You can simply print it out and put it on the wall for a child to point at their choices if this will work for you. I find being able to bring the choice card to me much better for supporting communication skills and making direct requests which is why I use a laminator and Velcro.
I laminate as much as possible as it means things last much better around young children (especially if they like to chew things). You can get laminators fairly cheaply and they are great for making up resources to use with kids. The best way to help the cards last is to cut out the individual choice cards before you then laminate them (this avoids them coming apart easily later).
Now you are ready to laminate the cards, I have a post on making PECS cards which includes some laminating tips for anyone new to laminators.
Once laminated you need to cut the cards out again. Now you can add some Velcro to the back of the cards.
Now you have your cards you will need a board. You can use plastic or card whichever is best for you. Simply laminate a piece of card and add some Velcro strips to it.
You can now add your cards to the board for your child to use. My 4 year old loves requesting Alphablocks all day long. Some children like my 6 year old will need more support and in some cases physical prompting to support them to make choices, it is worth putting the time in to support this as it gives them the ability to make the choice / request when they need to later.
I hope you enjoy trying out the TV Choice board with your kids. Do you have any choice boards? Is your child’s favourite show on our board?