It is one of my favorite games, it’s called RED Choice GREEN Choice. It is one of the powerful activities for autistic children that teaches Choice and Self Discipline. The objective of red choice, green choice is to teach your child to think of others in making a decision (choice) and if not then they will learn what a consequence is.

What is Red Choice Green Choice all about?

Red Choice Green Choice
Fig 1: Red Choice Green Choice

If you enjoy doing crafts then you will find this will only take you minutes to create. Alternatively, if you prefer to purchase a system like this you can find many options at Melissa and Doug (a toy company known for their high-quality wooden toys).

What You Need to Prepare

You will need the following:

 

Craft Sticks
1 X 4 Craft Sticks
ping pong paddles
1 X 4 Ping Pong Paddles
  • 4 craft sticks: 2 with red circles made out of cardboard glued or stapled to the stick and 2 with green circles made out of cardboard glued or stapled to them OR
  • A set of four ping-pong paddles, two red, two green. (no work involved 🙂 )
  • Chalkboard with red chalk and green chalk OR a Whiteboard with red and green markers (Melissa and Doug makes a nice wood calendar and multipurpose magnetic job board)
  • Small basket with wrapped prizes or treats – nothing expensive – stickers, crayons, small book, small car, doll dress, balloon, yo-yo, ball, a little box of raisins, crackers (you get the idea)

Make a Weekly Scorecard – Much like a Leaderboard

This is the simple chart you can make yourself – a weekly scorecard for each month so that both you and your autistic child has a visual reference on how well or poorly he performed for the month. There are two options:

green choice Green means your child made a good choice.

red choice Red means he/she made a poor choice.

Tell your child what the board means and show them the red and green sticks.

INITIALLY, YOU WOULD NEED TO GUIDE YOUR CHILD THROUGH THE PROCESS. EVERY TIME YOUR CHILD IS ABOUT TO TAKE A WRONG DECISION, YOU WOULD NEED TO HOLD UP THE RED STICK/PADDLE TO INDICATE THAT HE SHOULD CHANGE HIS MIND

Table 1: A Weekly Leaderboard of Green Vs Red Choice. Observe how the proportion of Green increases over the weeks

Note: For toddlers and pre-schoolers, preparing a weekly chart may be counter-productive. This is because their memory span is usually pretty small. Hence it is highly recommended to prepare charts on a daily basis.

Using the Red Choice Green Choice Activity Board

Explain to your child what the board means and show them the red and green sticks/paddles. Be as clear as possible – when mommy or daddy shows you the red and green you have two choices. Green is a good choice, red is the wrong choice.

Here are some examples:

  • You see your son about to throw a toy. The green choice is “don’t throw that toy and you can keep the toy”. The red choice is “throw the toy and I take it away”. It is imperative that you follow through! If the choice was red you must take the toy and put it away for at least a day. You can then return it to the toy pile when your child is not looking.
  • Your child refuses to eat dinner and wants a cookie. Two choices: Green choice – eats dinner and receives a cookie. Red choice – doesn’t eat dinner and any cookie or treats will have to wait until tomorrow.
  • Your child sees another child with a toy he wants. He goes to take the toy and possibly hit the other child. The green choice is he plays nice with his friend. The red choice is he has to sit by himself until he learns to play nice.

Mary Alexa, Autism Therapy Specialist explains, “I usually have the child sit (in my view) alone with no toys, books, TV or computer on. If they are 3 or under they sit for 3 minutes and you can use a timer. As the child gets older add 2 minutes for each year. Once you hit 10 minutes, which is the maximum. This often takes practice for both child and parent.”

Your child will not like sitting alone and WILL act out! This is why you keep them in your view. They may kick, scream, yell, almost do anything for attention. Your job is to ignore! This will be difficult at first, however you will soon see that they are crocodile tears – not out of pain, but rather your child wanting it their own way.

As you can see this enables your child to start contemplating their feelings and the feelings of others. While it is extremely difficult to be patient while your child screams and throws tantrums, do not give in unless they are self-abusive, in which case you should intervene and protect them from banging their head or hurting themselves.

Get Prepared for some Head Banging

bean bag for child
Get a Bean Bag to prevent head-banging

Headbanging is quite common in response to the discipline of self-time. For this reason, I suggest parents invest in a bean bag chair for their child that is used as their place to go when in a timeout. The chair provides protection for your child. You may even see that your child seeks out the bean bag chair when trying to self-regulate themselves. They know they can squirm around without hurting themselves and this becomes their very own little comfort zone.

Analyze the Progress with your Child

It should become an evening routine to look at the red/green chart. Remind your child which color there is more of. If there are more green marks just praise your child. If there are more red marks than green remind them they need more green than red to earn their prize. Be positive yet firm. There is no need to repeat what they did wrong. Your child just needs to know they did great or they need to try a little harder.

Tip for Optimum Effectiveness

Print the scorecard out on a A3 or A2 chart paper and stick it on the wall opposite to your child’s bed. Every night, before putting your child to bed, reflect on the day’s performance – explain to him why he got the reds and how those could be converted to green.

RESOURCE: To help Effective Decision Making, we recommend using choice boards. Download the Choice Boards Visuals here.

The Success Depends on YOU, not your Child

Self Discipline in Child with Autism
Self Discipline in Child with Autism

The red choice/green choice method of discipline is solely based on YOU following through with the good and bad consequence. For this reason, I recommend your child put the red or green mark on the board themselves. Green, they will run to the board to put it up. Red you will have to follow through with your consequence. Then walk your child to the board and make them put a red markup. This helps in both positive and negative reinforcement.


Mary Alexa
Mary Alexa

Hello everyone my name is Mary. I studied at University of Michigan under Dr. Richard Solomon, founder of the P.L.A.Y. Project for Children on the Autism Spectrum. I live in the Dominican Republic working at an International School with children on the autism spectrum. Empowering parents with knowledge and techniques to support their children’s needs as well as the needs of the entire family and community has been my main focus for the past seven years. Read More

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