January 31, 2012

Video Modeling

The following is written by Luke Walker, a Positive Behavior Support Trainer for the West Virginia Autism Training Center. Luke discusses using video modeling to teach skills to individuals with ASD.

Just what is video modeling?

Video modeling is a way of providing a visual to help explain a situation, provide rules, routine, teach a new skill or display important information. It can provide a model to the viewer of how a skill is completed or what a new environment will look like. Individuals that already enjoy watching videos, have basic imitation skills and are visual learners can benefit greatly from a video model. It is a very non-invasive way of teaching new skills and behavior.

Video modeling is based on the principle that many of our behaviors are learned from watching and imitating others. By watching someone who serves as a model, individuals may learn skills needed to obtain a goal or achieve an outcome - and then they  may act as a guide to another observer!

Video models are often an excellent fit for individuals with autism spectrum disorders as, typically, computer time is reinforcing, visual learning is often preferred and videos can be individually tailored.

Step 1: Planning

The first step for creating a video model is to plan exactly what you are going to teach the individual. Choose a behavior that is purposeful and meaningful to the individual. Define the behavior you wish to see, e.g. “Fred will brush his teeth before bed."

Choose the most appropriate type of video model you will use for the individual. Who will be the model? Will there be music or narration? Can you use pictures to supplement the video?
Next, break down the skill into steps and plan each different “shot”. Will there be a script for the model to read or actions to perform? What will these be?

Step 2: Filming

Record the video following the steps of the skills you planned earlier. Record several “takes” of each step and don’t be afraid to record more than you need. This will help with editing the video later. Be sure to keep the original footage in case you wish to make changes later.

I personally use a flip video camera for all of my video models. It is easy to quickly record and the image is often bright even in low light situations. I import it through the flip video software when I plug the camera into the computer, onto my hard drive.

Step 3: Production

Import your video into an video editing software so you can edit and trim the footage to remove mistakes and prompts. I use Windows movie maker for my video models as it is quick and easy to splice together a series of short video clips, loop, add music or narration, text to the screen and a number of other handy features. You will need to convert the video from the flip share program using the options to share it on media sites like youtube and Facebook. Follow the prompts and there will be a choice to allow you to save the file to the hard drive.

You want the video to show the ideal skill demonstrated without help or prompts. Be aware of how long the video is and whether it is suitable for the learner or not. A short video that loops could have more impact than a 2 minute video with many steps. At this stage add a title, text to the video and credits. Personalize the video for the individual so that they can take ownership and excitement in it.

Step 4: Show time

Some things to consider once you have finished your video:

How will it be watched?
  • Will you have a computer easily available or a DVD player at home? At school?
  • Is a portable DVD player suitable?
  • Ipad/Ipod/Iphone?
  • Upload a secure video on a video sharing site?

When will it be watched?
  • A set schedule each day?
  • Directly before the time the skill is to be performed?
  • When needed to correct the learner?
  • Can it be shared with parents to be shown at home?

5) Review and tweak

Assess whether the video is improving the skill by taking more footage of the current skill level and comparing to the original footage. Is the individual able to complete more steps than before? Are fewer prompts required? You could show the video and then test the learner 3-5 times at the skill and record the results to see if there is an improvement.

If positive results are not seen adjust the intervention.

  • Increase the number of viewings
  • Increase video loops
  • Change medium
  • Show video at different times of day
  • Prepare visual prompts from video to aid follow-through.

Be as creative as you wish with the videos you create as long as you remember to personalize them to the individual. There are many different factors to consider and many different decisions to make when creating a suitable video model so get to know the individual’s preferences, preferred learning styles strengths and weaknesses as you plan the video.

Here's one example:

January 10, 2012

Beginning The Search For Best Practice Interventions For Individuals With ASD

The following is written by Sarah Kunkel, a Positive Behavior Support Trainer for the West Virginia Autism Training Center. Sarah provides a discussion on best practice interventions for individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

Many of the same questions are asked by parents soon after their child has received a diagnosis on the autism spectrum:

Where do we go from here?

What do I do next?

What is the best course of action for my child?

There are answers to those questions, although finding answers to fit the individual needs of a specific child isn’t always simple. The Internet can provide a plethora of information, suggestions, and potential answers. Google "autism therapy" and 32 million hits are found!

How can any one person or family sift through this sea of information?

Fortunately, there are specific therapies that are accepted as best practice for autism. Therapies with this label are considered the best of all available treatments to significantly make a difference. In addition, best practice methods are scientifically sound and empirically tested. Many different scientists, professors, therapists, and other professionals have proven through research that these therapies make a significant difference in the lives of individuals diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

So, what are these best practice therapies? This article will cover some of the better known interventions.

The most well-known of these is Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA. ABA is a systematic and scientific approach to understanding how behavior is affected by the environment. Through data collection, observation, and interviews of family and teachers, the ABA method allows for a hypothesize to be formed regarding the function of maladaptive behavior; then that hypothesis is used to create an intervention to reduce the challenging behavior. For instance, Sally may often scream out in class at what appears to be random times. After collecting data and observing Sally’s behavior, her teacher notices that the screaming occurs mostly during group instruction but not during one-on-one instruction. As a result, she decides to ignore Sally when she screams out but praise her when she raises her hand. Soon the teacher notices that Sally is hardly ever screaming out during group instruction.

ABA is sometime confused with Discrete Trial Therapy, or DTT. DTT is a type of ABA therapy and it is best associated with the research of Ivar Lovaas, who had success utilizing DTT interventions to teach skills to children diagnosed with autism. DTT can be utilized to teach a child each of the small steps involved in learning a skill in a systematic manner repeatedly to gain mastery. For instance, Billy is learning how to follow directions, so his teacher starts with one-step directions. While sitting at a table one-on-one working together, the teacher says “stand up,” and waits for Billy to respond. At first he needs some help with understanding her request, so she prompts him physically to stand up. After a few more attempts with this specific instruction, his teacher is able to fade the prompts to simply a gestural prompt. Eventually, Billy is able to follow the direction numerous times successfully with his teacher and mother. This skill is considered mastered and his teacher moves on to the next direction and eventually to two-step directions.

Because Billy’s teacher is very well educated about Autism and ABA, she also knows that she must utilize Natural Environment Training, or NET, to truly master this skill with Billy. NET is similar to DTT but takes place in a more unstructured fashion. This helps Billy generalize the skill he has learned across multiple environments (instead of just the table) and people. For instance, now that Billy has mastered the skill through DTT, his teacher may begin to give the direction in the lunchroom, at circle, and at other appropriate moments, or ask other adults at school to also give the direction to Billy in order to generalize this skill into real world situations.

Another best practice technique is Positive Behavior Support, or PBS. PBS grew out of ABA from a desire to be more person-centered and antecedent-focused. PBS utilizes the same behavioral principles established within ABA with the understanding that it is important to focus on improving the individual’s quality of life, creating interventions that mesh well with the family’s value system, and focus more on preventing the things that happen before the behavior (the antecedents) rather than using consequences to reduce the behavior. For instance, if Timmy has been hitting his classmates and a functional behavior assessment (FBA) revealed that he did this in order to get attention, PBS would focus more on teaching Timmy to request attention in a more functional manner, such as using verbal speech, PECS, or sign language instead of using a consequence strategy such as Timmy loses 5 minutes of recess every time he hits another student.

There are some other interventions and techniques that were not discussed within this article that are considered best practice,and perhaps we will cover them in a later article. However, it is very important to understand whether a proposed intervention or therapy is considered “best practice” before beginning treatment. This link leads to a document that includes an evaluation of many common interventions for individuals diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The National Professional Development Center On Autism Spectrum Disorders also provides detailed information on best practice methods and guidelines. That site can be accessed at this link.

It is  important to refer to guides such as these so that everyone can be a knowledgeable and responsible consumer. Additionally, it is important to ensure that a variety of the “best practice” techniques is utilized with each individual to ensure skills are learned and generalized across environments and that the individuals life is one of quality.