Fostering Communication Through Choice Boards

A delightful 1st grader on the autism spectrum entered my classroom and my life this year.  He can cry, but beyond that, has no verbal communication skills. He can sign a few things, but those signs are often poorly executed and difficult for others outside his world to understand. He often runs through his repertoire of signs when asked to use them just to see if he "hits" one that will work. So here I am! I am a new person in his world and I need to communicate with him and him with me. Where do I start?
I chose to start with things he liked. His preferred items.  Luckily, I have one of the most awesome paraprofessional and together we have walked this path together of working our way into his world and him into ours.
 We systematically introduced him to items in our classroom finding a variety of activities he demonstrated interest in doing. One of his first was a 2nd hand office chair I had gotten from a fellow teacher to use at my teaching table. Fortunately, it is very sturdy and safe because we soon discovered he loved to spin in it. The preferred item we found was through his behavior analyst. He shared that he enjoyed gummy bears.
Once I had found 2 items he preferred, I made a choice board with those two items. We set up a schedule for him that alternated work time and choice time. At the end of each work time we asked him to "make a choice".








We started with a board with just two items. A food item of gummy bears and a picture of the chair he LOVES to spin in. It took several weeks to get a good pointing action from him and the moment we got a close proximity of indicating a response as to what he wanted -he got the item.

It was AMAZING to watch this learning in progress. I've worked many years and in many ways with kids with disabilities but I am still in awe and humbled every time when I see learning taking place like this.
The next thing we did was increase his items. We found he like grapes and jumping, so those were also added to his choice board. The jumping was an fantastic find, as it added to his physical activity and seem to funnel some of his energy into an appropriate physical outlet.
Here is an example of the 4 item choice board I made.
 

As you can see I try and use real pictures when at all possible, but sometimes, its quicker and easier to use clip art.
Now we have built up to a choice board with 12 items on it. 

Here are some other examples of choice boards. 














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