Article Details

Research Database: Article Details

Citation:  Watanabe, M., & Sturmey, P. (2003). The effect of choice-making opportunities during activity schedules on task engagement of adults with autism. Journal of Autism & Childhood Schizophrenia, 33 (5), 535-538.
Title:  The effect of choice-making opportunities during activity schedules on task engagement of adults with autism
Authors:  Watanabe, M., & Sturmey, P.
Year:  2003
Journal/Publication:  Journal of Autism & Childhood Schizophrenia
Publisher:  Plenum Publishing Corp. (US)
Full text:    |   PDF   
Peer-reviewed?  Yes
NIDILRR-funded?  Not reported

Structured abstract:

Background:  Improving and increasing independent choice-making and participation by adults with autism spectrum disorders is an important. Activity schedules have been demonstrated to be effective in increasing independent behavior of people with disabilities; however, the delivery of reinforcers was not reported. Therefore, there were not sufficient evidence to conclude that the combination of choice-making and activity schedules caused the change in client behavior.
Purpose:  This study extended previous literature, first, by including adults with autism in a community vocational setting and, second, by separating the effects of activity schedules and choice-making from contingency management effects.
Setting:  The study took place in an adult services program for people with developmental and behavioral disorders located in an urban area. At the beginning of the study, they had participated in the program for 1 year and 1 month, 2 years and 8 months, and 6 years and 3 months, respectively. These men belonged to the pro- gram’s highest-functioning group, which consisted of nine adults with autism and other developmental and behavioral disorders. These participants exhibited in- appropriate behavior more often than other members of this group when they were not engaged in tasks. The inappropriate behavior included making noises, hand- flapping, and talking to themselves. Their room was approximately 20 × 20 feet. There were five long tables and 15 chairs for the clients. The supervisor’s desk and chair were in front of the room facing the clients. Behind the supervisor was a black- board. A clock was hung above the blackboard so all the clients could see it.
Study sample:  Three men with autism—Mark, 22 years old; Bob, 40 years old; and Nick, 30 years old.
Intervention:  The clients’ tasks included, but were not limited to, math drills, reading comprehension, handwriting practice, personal hygiene check, job search, and letter- writing. None of these tasks was novel for the participants. Each task involved writing on paper. The study was simultaneously conducted with three participants from 9 A.M. to 11:45 A.M. for 23 days (23 sessions). One session consisted of three tasks. The participants’ on-task behavior was recorded using 1-minute momentary time sampling. Observations were made during a 30-minute observational period which started at 9:30, 10:15, or 11:05 A.M. The starting time was randomly selected each day of the study. The observer marked the participants’ on-task behavior (+) and off-task behavior (?) on a data sheet. Percent of on-task behavior was calculated by dividing the number of scored intervals by the total number of intervals.
Control or comparison condition:  During baseline, the experimenter wrote the morning schedule on the blackboard and gave the task papers to the participants. The participants had three tasks in one session. It was expected that the tasks would be completed within 40 minutes. There were 5- to 10- minute breaks between the tasks. The experimenter told the participants when to start tasks and take breaks (e.g., “It’s 10:55. Please take a 5-minute break,” or “It’s 11:05. Let’s go back to the activity.”). Other prompts were not given. The experimenter gave verbal praise such as, “Good job,” or, “You tried hard, didn’t you?” with smiles and eye contact to the participants when they finished the task during the scheduled period. If the participant did not finish the task within the scheduled time, the experimenter told him to take a break and start working on the next task after the break. If the participant completed the task earlier, he was told to take a long break until the next period started.
Data collection and analysis:  Experimental control was demonstrated using a multiple-baseline-across-subjects design. Each subject had a baseline phase in which no choices were made, an intervention Choice phase, and a Maintenance phase. The independent variable of the study was choice- making opportunities provided to the participants during activity schedules. The independent variable was the percentage of on-task behavior.
Findings:  In the baseline condition, staff assigned the order of the tasks. In the Choice condition and Maintenance phases, the participants chose the order of tasks that supervisors assigned to them. They made their own activity schedules by writing down the order of their tasks for that morning. Social praise was provided contingent on the participant’s task completion. The same tasks were used in baseline, intervention, and maintenance phases. During the Choice and Maintenance conditions, client engagement was substantially higher than baseline for all three participants. Increasing choice- making opportunities within activity schedules was an effective and socially acceptable way to increase choice and engagement in adults with autism.
Conclusions:  Increasing choice- making opportunities within activity schedules was an effective and socially acceptable way to increase choice and engagement in adults with autism.

Disabilities served:  Autism / ASD
Populations served:  Other
Interventions:  Other
Outcomes:  Other