What is it? The simple method of providing your child choices to either encourage engagement or identify what they want.
How to use it?
- Put everything out of your child’s reach. This means they will need you to get what they want, and therefore need to engage with you to get it.
- Get down to their eye level.
- Use their name and then state the two choices with an ‘or’ in between. Don’t use complex language or full sentences. You want to provide just the two items for your child to choose. For example “Apple or Orange”
- Say the two words loudly and clearly with exaggerated facial expression. This helps with future speech for your child by understanding the physical facial movements to provide the sounds.
- Depending on your child, you can place an item in each of your hands when verbalising the choices, I have however found that this results in them physically just grabbing what they want. I prefer to vocalise the choices and use hand gestures, prompting for the engagement, and a vocalisation or word in the future.
- Pictures can be used to show the choices. These are great if you have them ready and always have a picture of the item you know your child wants.
- You tend to already know what your child wants. So all you are doing is adding a step for them to engage and then get the reward.
- After naming the choices, wait for that engagement or flicker of eye contact.
- Repeat the choices until you get the engagement. Be patient and keep trying.
- As soon as you get the engagement, hold the item up by your face and say the item. Your child may not be comfortable with eye contact, so what this does is make them look to the item they want, and see your eyes close to it. They are also forced to see the facial movements you are making for the item in front of them.
- Give your child their item.
- Follow with loads of praise and excitement.
Taking it forward
I have found that often the easier item will be requested, especially when speech starts to develop. In these cases provide a choice of the item wanted and then something totally random. For example “Orange or spoon”. Your child will then be forced to choice the item they find difficult.
When you start getting longer periods of eye contact and your child is comfortable with the process, you can pause for longer and wait and see if they will make a sound. You can then emphasise the first syllable of the word to encourage them to change that vocalisation into the first sound of the word.
If you get the first sound of the word, then start building up the remaining syllable until your child has a full word.
Consider introducing pictures to show for each choice, especially if you don’t know what your child wants, or when requests are complex.
Once your child has built an understanding of the technique, and you feel it is right, you can introduce toys, like a car going down a ramp, or throwing a ball.
Read about this strategy in action in Strategic Choices.