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Making Choices…

Caregivers and health professionals often make a lot of choices for people with special needs. We tend to make choices related to what they should eat, where they should go, and what they should do. We plan their activities so that it will be therapeutic and help them learn new skills. However, a study done by Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders shows just the opposite. They found that when adults with autism were allowed to choose their own leisure activities, they learnt more from it. Their social and interaction skills improved when they were given the opportunity to choose between a range of activities.

It’s not just about leisure, but I have a feeling this concept will work in every area of intervention for autism. Teens and Adults with autism may show a lot of improvement if they are given respect, space and allowed to make their own decisions. In my own experience of working with people with psychiatric disorders, allowing them to choose helps improve motivation and performance.

So, next time you plan activities for a person with autism, give them choices. There may be many reasons why they choose one over another. It could be sensory issues, social issues, or just interest. Whatever be the reason, they can make the choice that works best for them. Moreover, giving them opportunities to make small decisions will help them learn to make bigger decisions that are required for independent living.

Read more about this study at http://live.psu.edu/story/51689

Picture Credit: Dcubillas, Wikimedia Commons, Available athttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tiga_Crossroads.jpg

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1 comment to Making Choices…

  • When my daughter was in school, she was not allowed to go into community with the other students because of behavioral outbursts. After she finished school, I made community outings a daily part of her routine, but instructed her caregivers to show her pictures of the various locations she might go and let her choose. I told them to give her time to choose whether or not to get out of the vehicle when they arrived at the destination. If she changed her mind and refused to get out of the car, then I told them to show her other pictures and let her make another choice. I told them to allow her to choose how long to stay and when to leave. For the past 3 years she has gone into community with her staff for 5 hours per day to multiple locations with minimal behaviors, even though transitions have always been difficult for her. Sometimes it works to leave for 5 or 10 minutes, go for a drive and come back to the first destination and by then she is ready to revisit the idea. Respect and choice work!

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