When we first meet people and start to talk, we look for topics that would interest us both.  We find out what a person likes or doesn’t like and these become conversational topics.  The motivation is there for both of you to communicate. Ways to get started:

  • Ask family members what their child does at home. How does she interact with household objects, siblings, pets, grandparents, friends? What does she spend time doing alone?

  • Just as important, what objects or activities does he dislike?

  • List the people, activities or objects on a “Likes/Dislikes” form to make sure you’ve asked about a variety of categories (not just foods or toys, for example).

  • Think about how to use the child’s preferences in his daily schedule and routines. (Don’t forget to build in some fun, too. Children with deaf-blindness need down time!)

  • If the student only likes toys with a certain quality, introduce one new thing. For example, if the child only likes soft cloth diapers, sew a jingle bell on one for her to discover.

  • Use likes and dislikes for matching or sorting. Example: place three stuffed animals (child’s like) in a box. Add a metal bowl (child’s dislike). The child can take out the stuffed animals and leave the bowl. This is also a great way to start conversations. Start using the phrase with the child, “You like ____,” or, “You don’t like ___.”

  • If the child enjoys a certain action such as bouncing or jumping, consider how that movement can be used to work toward accomplishing an objective such as counting: 1, 2, 3.

Family Input

Thinking Pod

Thinking Pod
  • Making things accessible to Shawn is part of his need to be actively involved instead of others doing things for him.

  • View the video again, if needed…Find out how the family made the tape player he liked accessible to him.  Shawn cannot just walk over to it.

  • Think how you would use a dislike of Shawn’s. Maybe you would give him choice of something he likes and something he doesn’t like.  If he pushes the dislike away it is a perfect opportunity to teach how to communicate that such as giving it back to the person offering it to him instead of throwing it or pushing it onto the floor.

Shawn has some specific likes and the video shows them and talks about ways to adapt for things to be accessible to him. It also shows the family and how they included his likes with them.

Using Likes as a Motivator

Thinking Pod

Thinking Pod
  • Do you think Christopher has played with this toy before close up maybe on his desk or while he is in his stander?  Yes, many times

  • Following a student’s pace puts him in control, not the person with him. He learns how to initiate from this opportunity and lose his passivity.

  • Who helped Kelly learn how to assist Christopher the least when he is walking to develop the skill?   The physical therapist


Kelly, the parapro, and Christopher are working on  walking with a walker.  He needs a purpose or reason to walk since it is not his favorite thing to do. It takes work. So Kelly uses something Christopher likes, the box with shiny material on it and a ball inside that makes noise if turned. Christopher only sees about 8 inches infront of him.  Kelly makes sure to push the box so the ball makes a sound.  Christopher has a moderate hearing loss and can hear the ball.

Thinking Pod

Thinking Pod
  • Why do you think having another person there engaged encourages Shawn to engage?  That person may be serving as a model for Shawn of what to do. Shawn may feel more comfortable if he knows someone is there with him


Shawn and Katie are playing with some items that make noise and are confined in the triangle shaped holder.  In the beginning he is not interested in them because Katie has not yet paired a like ( being with people) of Shawn’s

Once she slides her hands under Shawn’s and waits for him to engage, he definitely is willing to explore more.

Thinking Pod

Thinking Pod
  • Think of a student you know and list all his or her likes and dislikes.  If you don’t know many, make a note to talk to his family, past teachers and paraeducators.

Getting to Goals

Kathee explains more about finding likes and dislikes, thinking in all different categories of things and activities (see Likes and Dislikes form). And then how you use the information.