Preference Assessments and Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

By: Marlena N. Smith

A recent study conducted by CARD researchers Dr. Amy Kenzer and Dr. Michele Bishop demonstrated that the amount of preferred stimuli identified for use in behavioral interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may be increased by incorporating high preference as well as low preference and novel stimuli in preference assessments. Delivery of preferred stimuli is an important element of behavioral interventions. Furthermore, possessing a wide variety of preferred stimuli may reduce the possibility of over exposure to and boredom with a particular item or activity. Low preference stimuli and novel stimuli are generally not included in preference assessments; however, the inclusion of these stimuli may boost the number of preferred stimuli identified for application in behavioral interventions. Dr. Amy Kenzer and Dr. Michele Bishop set out to investigate the inclusion of reportedly low preference stimuli and novel stimuli in preference assessments for children with ASD.

Participants included 31children with ASD, ages 2 to 9 years. Each participant’s therapy team completed preference surveys to identify high and low preference stimuli. The experimenters selected novel stimuli that were similar to the high preference stimuli identified via staff report. The participants were administered two paired-stimulus preference assessments. The first compared high preference stimuli to low preference stimuli and the second compared high preference stimuli to novel stimuli.

The results indicated that 87% of participants frequently selected low preference or novel stimuli over high preference stimuli. High preference stimuli were top ranked in both preference assessments for only 4 participants.

The findings suggest that additional preferred stimuli may be identified by including reportedly low preference stimuli and novel stimuli in preference assessments. This is important given that the identification of a wide variety of preferred stimuli is crucial to the effectiveness of behavioral interventions. Further research exploring the incorporation of reportedly low preference stimuli and novel stimuli in preference assessments is warranted.

References

Kenzer, A. L., & Bishop, M. R. (in press). Evaluating preference for familiar and novel stimuli across a large group of children with autism. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2010.09.011

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