There are advancements being made daily which have the potential to improve the quality of life for people on the autism spectrum. Today's autism round table discussion takes a look at Video Self Modeling. Michael Leventhal will be guiding us in our look at this technique and its use.
Michael is leading an ongoing project at tech4autism that examines the potential for Video Self Modeling as an autism education tool. He has assembled autism experts there, many in the field of Video Modeling, and now requests comments and suggestions from parents, educators and researchers. There is an important survey at the site that I hope everyone will participate in.
In addition to Michael Leventhal, educator, researcher and autism advocate we are joined by Dr. Stephen Shore, professor, advocate and individual with asperger's syndrome. Ann Millan, parent, autism advocate and author of the book, Autism: Believe in the Future completes our autism round table.
Kathleen: Thank you everyone for being here today to discuss this extremely interesting and potentially life changing practice.....Video Self Modeling. Michael why don’t you start us off with a brief description of VSM and how it’s application could impact those on the autism spectrum?
Michael: I’d like to start by placing the conversation in perspective with an analogy. Technology is like currency. The head of each coin identifies a unique technology that can be applied to education while the tail describes how that technology is applied. While valuable, Video Modeling is only one of our coins. I may not yet know how value it is but I know I can use that coin to buy a tool that could make me more effective as a teacher. Eventually, our conversation will be about all the change (a.k.a. computer-assisted instruction) in our piggy bank. For now, Video modeling is the best choice to open our public discussion because it is a great technology that we are ready for.
Dr. Shore: Computers and video sounds like a natural for people with autism. We know the benefits of employing both video and computers. Computers can be ever-patient complements to teaching and people with autism tend to be visually-based.
Michael: I think computers were invented by Spectrum people... The world was becoming so complicated that it took a stroke of (autistic) genius to conceive of a means to reorganize events into a meaningful whole. It’s a case of building a better mouse trap.. Smoke signals just weren’t going to cut it anymore.
Dr. Shore: You are probably right. Many people on the autism spectrum tend to be attracted to computer-related things.
Michael: Computers function the way the human mind does. Except without all the clutter. Unless you forget to clear your cache weekly.
Kathleen: Those are some interesting insights on the origin of Video modeling and Video self modeling....let’s get to the practical aspects and what VSM can bring to the table for individuals on the spectrum.
Michael: Just so you all understand where I'm coming from; I have worked almost exclusively with severely involved kids. I rarely have a student close to grade level. Nearly all are untestable.
Dr. Shore: I think at times when we consider a child as “severe” or “low functioning” it often means we have not figured out a reliable means of communicating with them. I know many people who present as “severe” or “low functioning” but once provided the gift of functional communication there are easily as bright as you or I. Video modeling may be a way in.
Ann: I couldn’t agree with you more Stephen. That has always been my driving force.
Kathleen: Excellent point Stephen. This is another reason why this is so exciting. VSM seems to be a very valid and potentially empowering technique for augmenting skills, particularly in non-verbal individuals with autism.
Michael: Exactly my sentiments as well. That fact is what made me such an adamant believer in the power of video for autism.
Kathleen: Michael, now if you would, give a brief description of how VSM works. Video is taken of a person and then the video can be adjusted showing a slightly higher level of competency than the person actually demonstrated......is that correct?
Michael: At first, I used video to create video portfolios capturing behavior and accomplishments. I proposed the use of video portfolios to accompany our kids who are classified as untestable.
Ann: When I home schooled Robin, Michael, in (1980) I found that her behaviors would be more appropriate if I said, “Let’s video it.” She learned by looking at herself and sharing things with family. I thought it was much better than
Michael: We are not the only ones to have noticed this. The few companies that produce dvds to teach social skills were started by parents who also took notice They chose to act upon it. Most of us did not. The producer of Blues Clues said she was constantly bombarded by suggestions from Spectrum parents.
Dr. Shore: Like with so much related to autism; it’s usually parents who get things started.
Michael: It’s not that people didn’t notice... or dream. It’s that the technology didn’t exist. Then, it was too expensive and there was no means of funding wide use, only enough for a hjandful of researchers to conduct small scale experiments. And, that’s pretty much they way things remained until the last few years and the advent of ubiquitous technology that allows us to make or use stuff others make.
Ann: You’re so right. We borrowed a video from my husband’s work. However, as a parent, we’re still dealing with the attitude, “It doesn’t matter, your child’s retarded . . . or your child has autism.” Many professionals have no vision and transfer that to parents . . . even today.
Michael: Ann, I am finding fewer people resistant to the use of video. There are so many more excellent tv programs, web sites and dvds that the positive effects have become undeniable. People behaving like ostriches are becoming an acronism.
Ann: Good analogy. As parents, I definitely agree. Just look at vehicles and parents occupying their children on a drive! My typical grandchildren use all this technology today. And, in addition, we all have personal video cameras in our homes today. We’re seeing our children respond to videoing simple things, like vacations, a ball game, etc. What you’re saying Michael, by focusing on a specific goal, is beyond exciting!
Dr. Shore: Video may be easier for people with autism because there aren’t the unpredictable vagaries of human emotions that can occur in a face to face teaching situation.
Kathleen: Great point Stephen. The video can turn an ambiguous grey situation into a more discrete and understandable one for those who have problems with typical facial cues as well.
Michael: Ann’s observations are correct. I don’t need to know how a cell phone works in order to use it to communicate. I know I love to see myself in old home movies (8mm!) This appears to be the case with nearly all my students, and definitely regarding Stephen’s point about reducing the variables. It’s easier to understand this if you think visually. Basic movie-making techniques can be applied to mold the visual experience. Close ups focus attention on a single element of what would otherwise be a cluttered, complicated scene. The use of stop motion, reverse direction, repetition, et.al., things that do not exist in the real world, suddenly become the central focus of attention. I think Alfred Hitchcock would have made a great VM researcher.
Kathleen: From what you’re describing Michael, it sounds as if we are reaching the proverbial ‘critical mass’ for the VSM technology to come to fruition. This may be the time for VSM to become a viable and available tool for education, with particular emphasis on autism spectrum.
Dr. Shore: Another positive for video modeling is that the speed of the video can be adjusted to suit the need of the person on the autism spectrum. Many people with autism have a slower processing speed so slowing things down can be very helpful. Additionally, the challenge of the temporal nature of much education is eliminated.
Kathleen: I had not thought of that simple adjustment Stephen....very good.
Ann: My most recent phrase for my daughter is “attention and regulating”. Robin has difficulty keeping her attention on task to what’s needed or expected when there’s a lot of commotion around her. I see VM as helping a person on the Spectrum regulate this. As an example, at one of her jobs she has great difficulty speaking to strangers. It’s a busy area. She’s too busy keeping track of what everyone else is doing instead of her job, speaking to strangers.
Kathleen: This sounds like a perfect situation for VSM to be effective.
Michael: VSM is the use of video in which the intended viewer is also the prime player, successfully enacting a desired behavior. The subject may or may not have actually completed all the steps involved in an activity. If the subject has not yet mastered the skill to be shown, it is possible, through the use of thoughtful editing, to connect a sequence of independent, yet properly executed steps into a cohesive visual record.
Kathleen: That gives a very clear and concise description of the VSM model.
Thank you Michael.
Michael: If we may we use Robin as an example of how video self modeling could prove helpful, I would recommend that she be videoed performing various aspects of her daily routine, incorporating both that which she has mastered and the aspects that cause her trouble. Through editing, attention can be brought to the circumstantial antecedents that give her a problem. By reviewing and discussing the video, the day’s routine becomes more concrete and connected. The bad parts can be viewed from a different and impersonal perspective allowing for metacognitive growth.
Ann: Definitely. I see A LOT of people on the Spectrum limited just because of “attending and regulating” themselves.
Michael, I’m still a little confused. Do I set this up/stage the environment or do I video a natural daily routine and then edit what I need - or is that what you do? I think I’m hearing you say, to keep it as positive as possible. Is that correct? Yet still achieve your goal.
Dr. Shore: Agreed on the “attention and regulating” issue. The differences in attention and regulation in people with autism are so common that it should be listed as a DSM 5 characteristic.
Ann: Thank you Stephen. I’ve been a late bloomer on recognizing this as an issue.
Kathleen: From Ann’s example above Michael, how would you suggest a video be altered to provide the desired outcome, focusing on her duty of speaking with strangers....new people who enter the YMCA?
And Stephen, what are your thoughts on this as well?
Michael: Robin should be taped enacting the role of a model public relations employee. Have her memorize a brief script ( or several alternative scripts). She should review the tapes. If necessary, have someone else serve as a model so she can compare herself to others. It is also important to show the reactions of the people she greets in the video.
Ann: Oh, now I see how it works. That sounds like something she could definitely benefit from.
Michael: Hey. Why not make it fun? What’s her favorite movie? I hope it’s “Nine To Five”
Ann: She’s a Dolly Parton fan so that is a good idea. My mind is churning. I can do this. She’ll love it.
Dr. Shore: I think there is a lot to be said for this as well. There are many aspects of video modeling that speak to the learning and cognitive processing styles of people on the autism spectrum. And what is good for people with autism tends to be helpful for people with other conditions or even no disabilities at all.
Kathleen: Absolutely Stephen. Especially as there are so many with ‘autistic-like’ traits who have not been given an autism diagnosis, best practices for autism seem to always have positive effects on the general education population.
Dr. Shore: All of these special techniques that are developed for people with autism and other special needs can often just be seen as extensions of good teaching practice.
Kathleen: Agreed Stephen!
And Michael I love your enthusiasm.
Michael: Thanks. So do the kids. Stephen has hit the nail on the head. People forget that good teaching practices are constantly changing with the times. We can no longer teach to the class. We have to teach to the individual. But, sometimes our tools or our scheduling restraints make it difficult if not impossible to keep up with the times.
Ann: Michael, teachers have always been afraid when an IEP requires a teacher to “role play.” I found that many do not understand this concept or it’s too hard. BUT put a video camera in their hands and what you’re saying has real purpose and meaning.
Michael: I’ve been working on changing attitudes at my school for 5 years. At first, all I got was lip service. But, as teachers (and administration)
Dr. Shore: That’s great to read!
Kathleen: I know it’s exciting isn’t it? Videoing is obviously a powerful tool...what excites me about today’s discussion on Video SELF modeling, is the fact that this brings a dynamic component to the process that takes video in the classroom (and at home) to an entirely new level.
Michael: Many people use VM without realizing it. Whenever you put Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood on, you’re using VM. I’ve met people who are using VSM, creating it themselves, either as a test or as part of the curriculum. Dr. Ilene Schwarz, University of Washington http://www.haringcenter.washington.edu, administrator of a school that relies heavily on the use of video to capture behavior. In this case, video review not only benefits the student but serves as the basis for modifying instructions and IEP construction.
Ann: Michael, I like what your saying about purpose and structuring the video for the benefit (learning) of a person on the Spectrum. That requires a specific goal, like what you suggested with Robin. If I don’t keep the focus on the goal, it will just be another video. Parents cannot allow professionals to just video without specific goals for their child, particularly if it’s in the IEP.
Dr. Shore: I agree with what Ann is saying. A specific goal is such an important educational element – whether someone has autism or not.
Michael: It is insufficient to use technology without understanding its’ proper and productive use. The goal of the webinar series is to educate educators about VM and what to do with it. Know what VM can do, when to use, how to use, when to buy it from others, how to train and support you staff, how to build a lasting program, how to coordinate home and schoool activities to make it a 24/7 venture.
Ann: I hope these are video webinars for the educators (funny).
Michael: Definitely for educational stakeholders. Every group get its own session. Parents discuss their own amongst themselves. Plus, there will be a panel representing the interests and concerns of parents engaging in dynamic discourse. Teachers, administrators, therapists and researchers will each have their own session and panel. Even Commercial interests will have a meeting. Competition may be great for capitalism but cooperation is more productive for education.
Kathleen: I believe the goals you are referring to, Ann and Stephen, are the specific goals for each video session for the individual...correct?
Dr. Shore: The should be goals for the individual on the autism spectrum. Additional goals and helpful hints for the educator/parents or other person would add value to the video.
Ann: Yes, bringing it down to the level of the person with autism for them to realize and benefit. The bottom line purpose, is to help individuals with autism reach their next goal. From experience, I can tell you everything has to be carefully taught. Michael, that’s My Fair Lady!
Michael: You are both correct.
Ann: If parents are educated on this concept, they will take off with it in a positive way when they see their child benefiting. The issue will be to teach parents and educators to take baby steps, instead of jumping ahead of themselves. Understanding developmental learning is important, I would think?
Michael: True Ann. Not everyone can be Seanna Smith, a producer for the
http://www.watchmelearn.com/autism-videos-people.shtml . But, a parent doesn’t have to be an expert in developmental learning. If they have other children, I tell parents to first trust their parental instinct about what matters. Otherwise, send a note to your child’s teacher, explaining what you are trying to accomplish. Guaranteed you will receive some excellent suggestions about what would or would not be appropriate to attempt.
Parents who have already responded to the stakeholder survey rate their first priority understanding VM and what it can accomplish, followed by advice for planning, help with production and advice for integrating a VM program with their routines. They want to see examples and understand recommendations for best practices.
Dr. Shore: It’s great to see such collaboration going on. Much more can be done when people work together.
Ann: Yes, I’ve heard of Watch Me Learn. I’m glad to see all this coming together.
Michael: The only problem with collaboration is getting everyone together at the same time. Kathleen has managed this with our small group. A larger group, like the 188 people signed up for the project, takes a larger effort. I think I need a road manager. And, don’t forget, the Stakeholder Survey will, hopefully, attract over a thousand responses.
Ann: From what I’ve been reading about Stephen, he needs a road manager too. Busy people do!
Dr. Shore: I made heavy use of video recording for my dissertation on comparing 5 approaches for working with children on the autism spectrum. Whilst I did not engage in video modeling per se I did record one hour interview with key developers in the areas of creating the more well known and promising approaches of today.
Specifically I compared
Additionally, I can see how video modeling could be incorporating in any one of these methodologies.
Kathleen: From what we have discussed regarding Daily Life Therapy (as taught at the
Ann: I see this as something “cost effective” that parents can do. Many parents cannot afford the expensive options for them today. This they can run with.
Kathleen: Stephen can you briefly outline the Miller Method?
Dr. Shore: As for finding a manager I have yet to figure out how to engage one without spending endless time checking, rechecking, confirming, and reconfirming schedules. So it’s easier to just make the arrangements myself.
The Miller Method is a developmental-cognitive systems approach that strives to see the world from the viewpoint of the child with autism as interventions are developed. More about the approach can be found at www.millermethod.org.
Michael: Let’s review the important points we have covered.
Kathleen: Excellent idea Michael. Would you please outline those points to close out our discussion on Video Self Modeling?
Michael: VSM is (as defined in today’s discussion):
- The use of video in which the intended viewer is also the prime player, successfully enacting a desired behavior. The subject may or may not have actually completed all the steps involved in an activity. If the subject has not yet mastered the skill to be shown, it is possible, through the use of thoughtful editing, to connect a sequence of independent, yet properly executed steps into a cohesive visual record.
VM is an important tool in a rapidly growing arsenal of technology suited for autism.
- VM empowers individuals, especially those who are non-verbal, with a novel means of communicating their thoughts, expressing emotion and demonstration their ability to make their own decisions.
- VM offers caretakers the ability to reach out and connect with the child
- It can assist with attention and self-regulation, characteristics found so prevalent, they should be listed as DSM 5.
- People on the spectrum are drawn to and comfortable with video
- User expectations should be reasonable. Goals should be clear for both the individual on the autism spectrum and the purpose of creating a video
- Caretakers also need to be reasonable about what they can accomplish and clear about how to proceed.
- Understanding developmental learning is important but experienced parents can trust their own judgment. When in doubt, collaborate with the teacher.
The public is ready for this discussion
- Many people already use VM without realizing it. Whenever you put Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood on, you’re using VM.
- Some schools already use video capture behavior for review, assessment and IEP construction.
- It is insufficient to use technology without understanding its’ proper and productive use. The goal of the webinar series is to educate educators about VM and what to do with it.
- In early responses to the survey, parents rate understanding VM and what it can accomplish as first priority, followed by the need for planning, executing and integrating tied for second place.
- Today’s discussion is exciting because it brings an entirely new, dynamic component to the process to bring video into the home and classroom.
Kathleen: Perfect. Thank you Michael. I think we have enough information to encourage readers to seek out more information regarding VSM and an excellent place to do that is at your project website, www.tech4autism.com.
Ann, Stephen, Michael….Thank you everyone for your time and efforts. I look forward to collaborating on our next Autism Round Table.
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