Using Smartphones and Tablets in Video Modeling For Autism

using smartphones and tablets in video modeling for autism

There are tons of articles and lists about the best apps for kids with autism. However, you may be missing out on one of the best possible uses of smartphones and tablets for improving services for your learner: the camera app that is already built into the device.

A wealth of research has shown the efficacy of using video modeling to teach children and adults with autism, to train staff on how to implement programs and procedures, and to train parents on interventions. Smartphones and tablets make creating such videos much easier than it was in the past. Here’s why you should be using smartphones and tablets for video modeling for autism, as well as a few things to consider:

  • Be sure you have named the steps of the procedure or program you are modeling. It may be helpful to have those steps written down for the person using the video model.
  • If you are a teacher or practitioner recording your learner, be sure you have consent from the individual’s guardian(s). Also, check in about any recording policies at your school or center.
  • If you are a parent struggling to implement an intervention, request that the teacher or practitioner create a video model. It’s helpful to see someone else doing and to be able to refer back to that video as necessary.
  • If you are taking video of your learner for the first time, you may want to set up the tablet or smartphone without taking video for a few sessions before you actually create the video model. This will help avoid problems with the learner changing his or her behavior because a new (and often desirable) object is in the environment.
  • Consult the literature! As I mentioned before, there is a huge amount of research on video modeling. In recent years, it has been used to teach children with autism to make requests (Plavnick & Ferreri, 2011), increase treatment integrity for teachers implementing interventions (DiGennaro-Reed, Codding, Catania, & Maguire, 2010), teach children how to engage in pretend play (MacDonald, Sacramone, Mansfield, Wiltz, & Ahearn, 2009), increase social initiations of children with autism (Nikopoulos & Keenan, 2004), and more.

With the easy-to-use technology at our fingertips every day, video modeling is a simple and efficient way to demonstrate a new skill. This basic use of smartphones and tablets should not be overlooked because it can have a huge impact on teaching learners with autism new skills or helping parents and staff implement stronger programs and interventions.

References

DiGennaro-Reed, F. D., Codding, R., Catania, C. N., & Maguire, H. (2010). Effects of video modeling on treatment integrity of behavioral interventions. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 43(2), 291–295.

MacDonald, R., Sacramone, S,. Mansfield, R., Witz, K., & Ahearn, W.H. (2009). Using video modeling to teach reciprocal pretend play to children with autism. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42(1), 43–55.

Nikopoulous, C.K. & Keenan, M. (2004). Effects of video modeling on social initiations by children with autism. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 37(1), 93–96.

Plavnick, J. B., & Ferreri, S. J. (2011). Establishing verbal repertoires in children with autism using function-based video modeling. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44(4), 747–766.

WRITTEN BY SAM BLANCO, MSED, BCBA

Sam is an ABA provider for students ages 3-12 in NYC. Working in education for ten years with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays, Sam has developed strategies for achieving a multitude of academic, behavior, and social goals. Sam is currently pursuing her PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis at Endicott College.

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Tiggly Counts Feature

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Know Your Apps when Working with Children with Autism

There are very different expectations for parents and teachers when using apps on a tablet or smartphone with your learner with autism. Parents have a lot more free range on what they allow their children to engage in. As a parent, there are moments when you will have breakfast cooking, the phone ringing, and a work meeting scheduled in twenty minutes. I completely understand why a parent hands a tablet to their child with autism and lets them watch YouTube.

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But, as a teacher, this is not acceptable, unless the child has been working hard, and YouTube is a strong reinforcer for them that will be used for a minute or two. But a teacher needs to be consistently pushing their learners towards independence and thinking about the function of the tasks they are presenting to their learners.

By the same token, a teacher should not be handing a tablet to a learner and trusting that an app is useful simply because it’s labelled as educational. Teachers don’t give a book to a learner without having read it themselves. Teachers don’t provide materials for a science experiment without having tested it out and fully read all directions. But teachers frequently hand a tablet to a learner without having a full understanding of how to use the tablet or how to use all aspects of the apps. This is a problem if the learner has a question the teacher can’t answer, and it’s a problem if the teacher hasn’t carefully chosen apps that meet the needs of his or her individual learner.

To avoid these problems, it is essential to take the time to fully explore an app that you have chosen. Below are questions you can ask yourself while going through the app to decide if it is appropriate for your particular learner.

Questions to ask when you’re exploring an app:

  • Does the game or activity get more or less difficult based on the user’s performance?
  • If the app is billed as an “interactive story,” in what ways it is interactive?
  • What specific skills does the app practice?
  • Is the user easily able to navigate the app? Is there a back button or clear organization about how to move from screen to screen?
  • Are you able to have more than one user for the app? Some apps only allow one user, which is not useful for a classroom environment.
  • What kind of noises does the app use? Some apps have sounds for incorrect answers that your learner may find highly reinforcing, which is counterproductive to say the least.
  • How long is the playing time for one round? Or how long is the story?
  • If the app is a game, is there a natural end to the game or would you have to stop it mid-game?
  • Does the app keep any data or records about the user’s performance? If so, are you able to easily view this information?

Once I have determined if the app is good as a reinforcer, tool for generalization, or tool for introducing a concept, I make sure that I am fully able to use the app on my own. Then, I’m ready to introduce it to my learner!