Assessing food preferences among persons with profound mental retardation: providing opportunities to make choices.

  • Parsons M
  • Reid D
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Increased attention has been directed recently to assisting persons with severe handicaps to express preferences concerning events in their lives. We evaluated a program for assessing choice-making skills to provide opportunities for persons with profound mental retardation to express food and drink preferences. In Experiment 1, the assessment procedure involving repeated, paired-item presentations resulted in active choice making and the identification of preferences for all 5 participants. Results also indicated that caregiver opinion was not predictive of participant food and drink preferences. A survey of service providers supported the importance of meal-related choices in this population. In Experiment 2, the practicality of the assessment procedure was supported by demonstrating that (a) routine caregivers could apply the procedure with appropriate supervision to provide choice opportunities, and (b) results of the procedure were predictive of participant choices when a less structured and more normal opportunity to express a preference was provided during regular mealtimes. Results are discussed in terms of extending the developing technology of preference and reinforcer identification to other important areas for persons with severe disabilities.

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  • M B Parsons

  • D H Reid

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