Conducting Preference Assessments for Youth With Disorders of Consciousness During Rehabilitation

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Abstract

Purpose: Care and rehabilitation for individuals with disorders of consciousness (DOC) can be challenging; the use of observational data collection, individualized treatment programs, and incorporation of preferred, personally meaningful and salient items may be helpful in addressing such challenges during assessment and intervention. In this article, we extend the predominantly adult literature on use of salient items to promote differential responding by describing our methodology to identify preferred items across sensory domains for application during inpatient rehabilitation with children with DOC. Method: Details on the indirect and direct preference assessment procedures rooted in applied behavior analysis that we have tailored for this population are provided. We describe steps of the procedures, including structured caregiver interview, staff survey, item inclusion, in vivo single-item stimulus preference assessment, and treatment. Clinical case examples further illustrate implementation of our methodology, observed response topographies, individually identified preferred items, and their application for 3 children in a minimally conscious state. In addition, we introduce a new structured caregiver interview, the Preference Assessment for Youth with Disorders of Consciousness (PAYDOC), modeled on the Reinforcer Assessment for Individuals with Severe Disabilities (RAISD; Fisher, Piazza, Bowman, & Amari, 1996) and modified to be appropriate for future use as a clinical tool to enhance assessment of preferences with this pediatric brain injury population. Implications: This methodology can be used to identify highly idiosyncratic stimuli that can be incorporated in multiple ways throughout rehabilitation to optimize care for youth with DOC.

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