Choice-Making Strategies for Parents

Brief Introduction: By the time lunch arrives, you have probably made countless choices. For example, you chose when to wake up, what to wear to work or school, whether to shower or brush your teeth first, what to have for breakfast, how to get to work or school, whether to pack a lunch, etc. This ability to make effective choices and decisions for yourself is one of the most important competencies that all children (including those with disabilities) need to be successful in life after high school. Providing choices is clearly linked to self-determination and quality of life for individuals with disabilities. Being able to recognize opportunities provided by others to make choices and initiate choice-making lays the foundation for independent living. However, to be effective, the process of teaching independent choice-making to children, especially those with disabilities and/or more significant needs, must begin very early and must be something that is ongoing.
Adults can begin offering simple, structured choices to children by manipulating situations, tasks, or items already available at home, school and/or in the community. For example, embedding choices within daily routines such as the sequence in which required activities will be completed (as in “Would you like to brush your teeth before or after you take a bath?”), offering a choice of the time at which to begin a task that is required (“Do you want to go to bed at 8:30 or 8:45?”); and/or providing personal choice-making opportunities to your child (such as “Do you want to wear the blue shirt or the purple shirt?”) can help the child practice choice-making. This will provide the child with frequent opportunities to refine his/her decision-making skills. Incorporating these kinds of frequent opportunities for the child to make even small choices about things that s/he is expected to do (i.e., choosing which task s/he wants do first, second, etc.) can build independence, while giving the child a sense of control over things that occur in his/her environment. The following article includes additional information about choice-making, as well as some practical ideas and examples for parents to use to begin (or continue) to facilitate choice-making with their child at home.

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