"Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say." Exodus 4:12
Key Concepts: Teaching Students to Choose
Now that you have learned about the types of options to use and how to prepare them in 'Types of Choices,' you are ready to learn a little bit about how to teach a child to choose or sometimes we call it 'initiate a response' in the professional world. Here are some concepts and things to do:
1-Belief: Believe in the student and believe in yourself. It is a struggle for many to work for some one who doubts them or who doubts themselves. This is true, really for most of us. It is normal to feel overwhelmed at first. You are going into the unknown and there are tons of new skills to learn. But remember, each is just a person. They need what others need. So, you are further a long than you think. As you build confidence in your abilities and confidence in the individual(s) you are teaching, you'll start to see better results typically--sometimes night and day.
2-Placement of Options: Have you ever noticed when you sit down at a computer, without thinking, you position the keyboard to be just right for yourself. You did this with many things. If someone made you type or do an activity in a less comfortable position, you'd be ok. However, individual with severe disabilities and with scattered sensory systems will struggle to perform. Placement of options in a comfortable position, for them, can be critical for them to be able to perform well.1,4 So how do you know where to place the options? This video helps teach you some ways to figure it out:
3-Deliver from left to right- The first option you say should be placed to the left side of the student's hand and the second option you say should be placed to the right side of the student's hand. So deliver them left to right in the order you say them. That way if the student doesn't look, is visually impaired, or can't read, they can match which option is which with the sound of your voice and location.
4-Show how: The student must be shown how and what to choose.2 Here are some ways to teach. (This video is also here.)
5-Prompts: Prompts can help a student respond. Many struggle to initiate movement. After you have modeled to the student how, sometimes they need a little verbal prompting like ("go a head and choose") or air prompts or gesture prompts (without touching gesture toward the choices or for them to lift their hand up). It can also be good to lift the student's hand to the center of the choices and let go as you place the choices in front of them. This way they are ready to choose.3,4,5
6-Errorless Learning: This means that you teach them too choose in a way that minimizes the possibility of them making mistakes and getting it incorrect.5 By minimizing the possibility of the individual making mistakes you build their confidence and self-esteem. This is one reason for modeling how to choose and starting with only having one option (the correct option) available.
7-Began with facts when the environments permits this: If you give information and ask for it back, this is a good way to see if your positioning, speed, and delivery is working for the individual (don't beat yourself up--this just means time and/or problem solving need to take place.) The information taught in the following video works best one on one or small groups, like in a home religious environment. However, this is important to know for group situations as well since this is how you can help train a student to respond.6 Here is why we start with facts:
8-Generalizing: This is a term meaning a person transfers knowledge and skills from one situation to another. If you are teaching someone who has picked from options before, but they struggle to do it accurately with you, they are probably not generalizing. They likely know what you want them to do, but with a scattered sensory system it makes it difficult for them to apply that learning to the new situation--you. The only way to solve this is do it with them so they get good at doing it with you.
1,2,3,6-Mukhopadhyay, S. (2008). Understanding Autism through Rapid Prompting Method. Denver: Outskirts Press, Inc 4-Beukelman, D.R., Mirenda, P. (2005). Augmentative & Alternative Communication. Baltimore: Paul H. Brooks Publishing 5-de Boer, S. R. (2007). How To Do Discrete Trial Training. (Pg. 15). Austin: PRO-ED, Inc.