Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Naturally Occurring Opportunities for Preschool Children with or without Disabilities to Make Choices

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Naturally Occurring Opportunities for Preschool Children with or without Disabilities to Make Choices

Article excerpt


Choice making is an integral part of developmentally appropriate curricula, however, research to date is not sufficient and therefore, inconclusive as to what constitutes best practice for both the delivery and type of choice making opportunities for young children with and without disabilities in various environments. The purposes of this study were to determine: 1) the rate of naturally occurring choice making opportunities (by adult or child); 2) what types of opportunities were offered/initiated, and 3) the effects of these opportunities on social behavior. During the descriptive study, a total of 14 children (7 with disabilities and 7 without disabilities) were observed. Results indicated that children with disabilities were provided with more choices than children without disabilities. However, children with and without disabilities both initiated choice making opportunities at the same rate. Additionally, female children with and without disabilities were provided with more opportunities to make choice s than males. Children with disabilities and those without were provided with different types of choices and at different frequencies. Results are discussed regarding implications for future research as part of an ongoing effort to provide an empirical base for the incorporation of choice into the DEC and NAEYC developmentally appropriate practices framework.


Choice making is a necessary and fundamental part of life. As adults, we frequently make significant life choices, such as who to marry and what occupation to pursue. We also enjoy the right to choose more basic functions, such as what to eat for lunch and what to wear to work. Children also have the opportunity to make choices, however, most often these options are based on adult structured opportunities. Thus, adults and not the children often dictate the degree and type of choices available. This is typically a part of the development process to ensure safety and to foster decision-making skills at an appropriate developmental level. Young children with and without disabilities make basic choices throughout their day when adults (teachers and parents) provide opportunities for them to do so. Wolery (2000) asserts that those who work with young children are charged with maximizing "the likelihood that all of children's experience ... will promote learning of desired skills and patterns" (p. 30). One's abili ty to make choices is not only a desirable skill but also creates a pattern of social competence. Thus, when taught how to identify, select, and initiate choice making opportunities, young children can become adults who independently make choices.

Effects of Choice making

The effects of providing opportunities to make choices to those with disabilities have been validated in the research literature for older children with more severe disabilities. Sigafoos (1998) states that there "is sufficient empirical validation of the effects of choice making on challenging behavior to recommend its general use ... for the behavioral support of" children with disabilities (p. 202). For example, choice making has been effective in increasing appropriate social behaviors (e.g., Dattilo & Rusch, 1985; Sigafoos, Roberts, Couzens, & Kerr, 1993) and increasing appropriate academic behaviors (e.g., Mithaug & Mar, 1980; Realon, Favell, & Lowerre, 1990). Emerging data suggest that choice making opportunities can also be effective in improving the behaviors for individuals with emotional and behavioral disorders and problematic behaviors in academic contexts (e.g., Cosden, Gannon, & Haring, 1995; Dunlap et al., 1994; Dunlap, Kern-Dunlap, Clarke, & Robbins, 1991; Jolivette, Wehby, Canale, & Massey 2 001; Powell & Nelson, 1997).

A strong foundation of research supporting the provision of choice for young children, particularly for those with disabilities, is increasingly being demonstrated. …

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