In Order by Preference…


Submitted by: April Groeneweg, BCBA

What is your most preferred item or activity? If you’re like me, it doesn’t take long to figure out the answer. I can list various items in order of how much I like them. For many individuals with autism, creating your own list provides some challenges. Some of these challenges may include making choices between two preferred items, requesting an item, and indicating when they are bored with the item. Preferences can be discovered for every individual even if they have not yet learned to request the item.

An example of an assessment for individuals who can make choices is called a Forced Choice Preference Assessment. Within this assessment, two preferred items are shown to the child. Choice can be made by touching, pointing, grabbing, or gazing eyes toward the item. The items are presented numerous times until every item has been shown with the other items. The number of times the item was chosen is divided by the number of times the item was presented. This division will assist in determining an order of preference.

Another example of assessment for individuals who cannot request or may have difficulty making a choice is called a Single Stimuli Preference Assessment. With this assessment, the length of time the child plays with the toy is collected. Each item is presented one at a time until the child stops playing with the item. The order of preference is determined based upon the length of time each item was played with.

A more advanced method of assessment for individuals who can make choices when many items are presented at once is called a Multiple Stimulus Preference Assessment. With this assessment, many items are presented, typically 5 or more at a time. The order in which the child selects the item is collected. The item can be replaced and shown again in the next choice or removed and not available again until all items have been chosen.

Determining what your child likes the most can help figure out new presents to buy. If you notice your child has a preference for light up toys, musical toys, moveable toys, etc. move that to the top of Santa’s list.