Technology-Mediated Instructional Strategies for Students with Autism

Thomas S. Higbee, Kara A. Reagon, and Katie Endicott

Utah State University

Autism: What is it?
Autism is a severe developmental disability, marked by impairments of communication, social, emotional functioning
Autism is defined in by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as:
A developmental disability affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that affects a child performance .
Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to an article change or changing daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences .
The term does not apply if the child’s educational performance is adversely affect it primarily because the child has a serious emotional disturbance

Autism: How is it diagnosed?
Autism is diagnosed behaviorally-we observe the child and record behavioral excesses (e.g., self-stimulatory behaviors, echolalic speech, aggression or self injury, rigid adherence to routines) and behavioral deficits (lack of normal speech, lack of normal social skills, unresponsiveness to social contact)
If a child meets a predetermined criteria that is based on the previous experiences of diagnosticians, then he/she is diagnosed with autism
While it is commonly agreed that it is a neurological disorder and there is some evidence for its heritability, there is no blood test, genetic test, or neurological test that can detect autism

Autism: Causes
While over the years there have been a variety of claims about what causes autism (bad parenting, MMR vaccine, mercury,etc.), to this point, researchers have not identified a reliable cause
Bottom line: While recent research has confirmed that autism is organic/biological in origin, we don’t know what causes autism

Autism: Prevalence
3.4 per 1000 births (this estimate is much higher than previously thought)
equally distributed across races
4:1 ratio of males to females
Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, January 2003

Autism: Prevalence
There is considerable disagreement between researchers about whether the increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism represents a true “epidemic” of autism or whether improvements in diagnostic procedures and public awareness can account for the observed change in the numbers
It is probable that the answer lies somewhere between the two extremes
Irregardless of the answer to this question, the fact remains that more students with autistic characteristics are entering the public school system

Autism: Education and Treatment
While researchers have thus far been unsuccessful in identifying the cause of autism, they have developed effective methods for treating the disorder
Research has shown that while children with autism do not learn readily from typical educational environments, they can learn a great deal when the environment is appropriately constructed
Research has consistently demonstrated that successful treatments for children with autism are those based on principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
Research has also shown that behavioral interventions are most effective when they are intense (30-40 hours per week) and started at a young age (3-5 years of age)
These same strategies, however, have been used successfully with older students as well

Potential Advantages of Video (Krantz, MacDuff, Wadstrom & McClannahan, 1991)
Many students with autism demonstrate “T.V. watching skills” (e.g., repeated viewing of preferred videos, etc.)
Alternative instructional medium
Browning & White, 1986
Creates opportunities for repeated viewings
Charlop & Milstein, 1989
Show target skills in a variety of settings (i.e. at home, at school, in the workplace, or in the community)
Haring, Kennedy, Adams & Pittconway, 1987

Potential Advantages of Video (Krantz, MacDuff, Wadstrom & McClannahan, 1991)
Video interventions may be a potential intervention strategy to help individuals with disabilities control severe behavior problems
Greelis & Kazaoka, 1979
Enhances data analysis and reliability of measurement
Powers & Handleman, 1984
New opportunities to address generalization deficits
Daoust, Williams & Rolider, 1987

Technology-Mediated Instructional Approaches
Video modeling
Video instruction
Video feedback

Video Modeling
Video modeling is when a peer video model, adult video model, or a video from the participant’s perspective (videotaped as if the student was looking through the lens) is shown completing a task or sequence of behaviors which the student is supposed to imitate.
The use of the video is then discontinued or faded once the student has mastered the task or sequence of behaviors.
Some video models show both motor responses and verbal responses, such as with play sequences or an endeavor, purchasing items.
Other video models may just show motor responses because they are teaching tasks such as setting the table which do not require language or social interactions.

Video Self-Modeling
Video self-modeling is when the student is videotaped engaging in an appropriate behavior the he does infrequently and reviews the tape prior to engaging in the behavior in the future
Visually attends to monitor
Ability to discriminate oneself

Recommended Prerequisite Skills for Using Video Technology
Student visually attends to the monitor
Imitates adults and/or peers
Follows adult directions
Plays appropriately with a number of toys (if teaching play skills)
Receptively and expressively identify a number of objects and people
Low levels of stereotypy and or disruptive behavior
Sustained on task behavior for the length of the video

Many Uses of Video Modeling
Conversational skills
Play skills
Adaptive skills
Decrease self-injury
Decrease stereotypy
Provide delayed consequences

Teaching Pretend Play to a Preschooler with Autism
4 years old
Sibling and a typical peer as models
4 Video Models
Training was done at the preschool
“Watch t.v.” and then “Go play”
Generalization probes were conducted in the home no video models were shown

Creating a Video Model for Teaching Play Skills
Deciding what to teach
Type of Scenario based on the student’s skill level
Develop a script
Number of words per line
Determine what props to use
Create a task analysis

Identifying Peers
Older than the student
Sustained on task
Socially competent
Highly interested and motivated

Training Peer Models
Informing typical peers about children with autism
Pre-teach their lines and actions
Role play - practice saying the correct lines and actions
Provide reinforcement - make it fun for the kids
Visual aids - “cue cards”

Advantages of Using DVDs
You don’t have to use a DVD to use a video modeling procedure, you can use regular video tape
The disadvantage of video tape is that you either have to get the entire sequence correct in the same take, or you have to use specialized equipment to edit the video
The advantage of a DVD video model is that it is easy and quick to use (no fast-forwarding or rewinding)
DVDs are more durable than video tapes
Disadvantage: it takes time to create the DVD

Teaching Using a DVD Model
Have all materials ready prior to starting
Have the student sit in front of the T.V.
Have the volume set at an appropriate level
Instruct the student “Watch the movie”
student watches the model
After the student watches the model, instruct the student to “Go play”

When the Student Needs Additional Help
Have the student watch the model several times prior to playing
Provide manual prompts if the student fails to engage in the behavior
Have the student say the script while watching the model (press pause)
Provide supplemental reinforcers for participating
Fade supplemental prompts and reinforcers
Assess the components of the DVD model
Preteach components
Create new DVD

Measuring Student Progress
Collect data
Verbal components
Behavioral components
Graph data to allow for visual display and interpretation of progress
Video Instruction
Video instruction is when a student watches a video of a teacher or therapist delivering instructions and then responds to the instructions presented in the video. The student does not imitate the video but responds as if it was an individual delivering the instruction in person.

Suggested Content Areas for Video Instruction
Nonverbal Imitation
“Do this”
Object Labeling
“What is it?”
Expressive Action Labels
“What is he doing?”
“How is he feeling?”
Retelling a Story
“What happened?”
Recalling Remote Events
Answering questions about a vacation

Using Video Instruction to Teach Labeling
3 preschoolers - Sawyer(4), Braden(3)& Stewart (3)
2 conditions
No text
Video consisted of photographs of various stimuli and auditory instructions

Equipment Needed to Develop Video Instruction DVDs
Digital Video Camera
Software Needed
Picture This … Professional Edition V3.0
Sonic Vegas
DVD Architect

You should have a basic understanding of how to use the equipment and software

How to Develop Video Instruction DVDs
Determine what program you are going to teach
Select the appropriate pictures
Object Labeling Program
Select appropriate movie clips
Retelling a story
Recruit actors - student, sibling, or peers
Nonverbal imitation
Expressive Action Labels
Retelling a story

DVD instruction should occur in an environment with minimal distractions at first
Pre-teaching students to respond to video instruction may be necessary at first
The number of trials presented and the length of the DVD should be considered when developing video technology for children with autism
Other strategies that may be helpful
Use of headphones
Teaching the student to use the remote and operate the DVD

Things to Consider
Prompt dependence
Video presenter
Fading of video technology

Technology-mediated instructional practices such as video modeling and video-based instruction have the potential to help students with autism acquire both academic and social skills
Further research is needed to refine these techniques and determine how they can most effectively be used with these students

For more information…
Contact Dr. Higbee
Email: tom.higbee@usu.edu
Phone: (435) 797-1933

 Contact: Dr. Higbee | Phone: 435.797.1933 | Fax: 435.797.3572 | Email:  tom.higbee@usu.edu