Friday, September 14, 2012

Preference Assessment- Step by Step

Whether you know a variety of items your student enjoys or if you have no clue, using a preference assessment can help you determine a rank order of preferred items that you can use as reinforcers for each student.

Choosing your items:
*Use items you notice the student interacting with during the day (toys, foods, activities).
*Ask parents which items their child prefers.
*I like to include a combination of edibles and toys for my students.  

Some examples of items:
*Fruity Candy (hard and chewy): Sucker, Jolly Rancher, Starburst, Skittles, Gum, Fruit Snacks, etc)
*Chocolate Candy: M&Ms, Hershey Bar, Reese's Pieces, etc.
*Beverages (juice, soda, water)
*Toys: Slinky, Play Doh, Ball, Blocks, Doll, Stuffed Animal, 
*Activities: Markers/Paper, Puzzle, Ipod/Ipad

How to do the Preference Assessment:
1.  Choose 7 preferred items and write them on your data sheet.

2.  Let the child sample each of the items.  If the item is an edible, the sample should be small (like 1 skittle or 1 chip).  If the item is a toy/activity, let them interact with it for around 30 sec- 1 min.

3.  Place one of each of all 7 items on a tray in front of the child (again keep the samples small...).  Tell them to "pick one."  As soon as they grab an item, remove the tray with the other remaining items.  
4.  Allow the child to eat/play with their chosen item while you record their selection on the data sheet.

5.  Now present the remaining 6 items on the tray, let the child "pick one," and again remove the remaining options.
6.  Allow the child to eat/play with their chosen item while you record their selection on the data sheet.  

7.  Continue until all the items have been chosen.

8.  Analyze your data and put items in rank order.


Preferences are not constant.  They may change based on a variety of reasons, but a preference assessment can still help you determine items your student prefers in general.  For instance, if the last remaining item on the tray was the play doh and the child refused to take it, you may be able to rule out this item as a preferred item (the same goes for any food you see them spit out or refuse to eat).  

You can complete this several times to determine how the students' preference rankings change over time. You can also do this on a smaller scale (using 2-4 items) before an activity by presenting items the child prefers and allowing the child to "work for" whichever item they select so that they earn the item when they finish the activity.


  1. Small bits of content which are explained in details, helps me understand the topic,

    thank you!


  2. I'm glad this was helpful for you!