Identifying Motivators & Preference Assessments

As humans, we do things because we are motivated by something. We go to work because we get paid. We eat food because we are hungry. During a therapy session with a client, we want to make sure we know what is motivating to that client for that specific day. How do we identify a client’s reinforcers? We do a preference assessment! We complete these assessments because the client’s preference may be different depending on the day of the week, their mood, or time of day. We want to know what the client is motivated by that day so that they can perform at their best. Would you want to do something challenging for free? Probably not.

How do we do a preference assessment? It is pretty simple. Before the therapy session begins, the client’s favorite snacks, foods, or toys are laid out in a row on the therapy table (4-6 items). Then the therapist asks, as they are pointing to the row of reinforcers, “What do you want?” The client then initiates their preference verbally, using a gesture, through eye gaze, or a vocalization depending on the client’s mode of communication. The client is then given that reinforcer and asked again, “What else do you want?” This procedure is repeated until the client chooses the 3 highest motivating reinforcers. Once the most motivating reinforcers are established, then the session can begin. Now, the therapist knows exactly what will be motivating for the client for that session.