Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Will You Be My Friend?

As all kids on the autism spectrum, Tristan has a difficult time with social skills. Often Tristan’s words fail him or he has a hard time retrieving the words fast enough to react to his classmates. When there is break down in communication Tristan sometimes (not always) gets frustrated and puts his hands on the other kids face. Quickly, he is able to regain himself and apologize and move on (often without teacher redirection).

Last year this scenario happened daily or even several times a day until we (home and school) used video modeling. We used video modeling to instruct Tristan how to stand in line without touching the other kids. First, Tristan was video taped in line touching the other children (not the desired behavior). Then the other kids lined-up slowly, one at a time, placing their arms down, and hands by their sides (desired behavior).

Tristan watched the video at home and within weeks the behavior switched from undesired to desired behavior. Since, we have used video modeling to help Tristan understand social situations like how to negotiate when he wants a toy that another child has. We have even used video modeling to teach Tristan the ABCs. Letters held no importance to Tristan until we placed them with a person or object that had meaning for him, like M for mommy (picture of me).

I think it is time to revive video modeling to teach Tristan some complex social situations like creating friendships. Often Tristan will suggest a play scenario like let’s build with Legos and his friend says no let’s play soccer and Tristan says “no, I don’t like soccer”, then he walks away. Instead of Tristan saying:
“How about playing Star Wars?”
“Ok, soccer now, Legos later.”

Tristan’s IEP goals and our parenting goals reflect social development; however sometimes they can become overshadowed by academic objectives like learning to read. I find myself reminding his school team that Tristan will be a successful read and writer, but right now, his peers are willing to practice social skills with him and as they grow older they will probably lose interest.

Tristan will need more time decode and navigate the social scene, so giving him as much time now when he and his peers are young to practice will help not only Tristan, but probably the entire class.


Angela Timpone said...

This is from Anne Barbano, who asked if I would post this comment:

Whether or not you have a child who is able to access information such as Tristan it really is necessary to look at some of these methodologies such as video modeling to increase understanding. I wonder how many families know how to do this? Were you able to do this on your own or did any school personnel or consultants help with the design of the video? Thanks for sharing what has worked for Tristan. It gives ideas and that's always good. I attended a video modeling workshop in VT and was spellbound by it! By the way, site is looking great! Take care, ANNE

THE NEXT FRONTIER, the first Vermont autism and disabilities weekly
radio program from is airing
Wednesdays 10:00 am -11:00 am on
WOMM-LP 105.9 FM Burlington
Studio: (802) 861-WOMM (861-9666)

Producer/Host Anne Barbano

Archived Shows at:

Angela Timpone said...

It was a collaboartion with us and school. We gave the school our FLIP video camera and they recorded the scenes and if we needed to edit we did that, but really easy to do. Sometimes we came up (as a team) with a script. Angela

Marathon Mom said...

What a great idea with the video modeling. This post has been very helpful. I try to help my 5 year old in social situations and we both end up very frustrated sometimes. I will mention this at his next IEP meeting or when an issue arises. Thanks!