What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology is any kind of technology and/or tool that can be used to enhance the functional independence of a person with a disability. Often, for people with disabilities, accomplishing daily tasks such as communicating with others, going to school or work, or participating in activities can be a challenge. Assistive Technology (AT) devices are tools to help overcome those challenges and enable people living with disabilities to enhance and have access to a quality of life, that may otherwise not be known, and lead more independent lives.

The mission of this blog is to serve as a voice of a constant researcher in the field of educational and assistive technologies so that the best products, strategies and services may be located easily, in hopes that they will then be delivered, taught and used to better the lives of people with disabilities.


Video Modeling

If you have any Mobile Technology: an iPhone, iPad or even a Flip Camera, you can start adding a new dimension right away with teaching social skills with students on the autism spectrum or with intellectual disabilities.  Video modeling (VM) is a teaching strategy in which a teacher shows a video of desired behaviors or interactions to an individual student or small group of students. There is evidence that video modeling can be an effective method in teaching desired behaviors. 

Wikipedia describes Video Modeling as:
"a form of observational learning in which desired behaviors are learned by watching a video demonstration and then imitating of the behavior of the model. In video self-modeling (VSM), individuals observe themselves performing a behavior successfully on video, and then imitate the targeted behavior. Video modeling has been used to teach many skills, including social skills, communication, and athletic performance; it has shown promise as an intervention for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Important practical and theoretical questions remain largely unanswered about video modeling and other forms of video-based intervention."

With advances in mobile technology, VM is becoming more efficient and effective in addressing the needs of our diverse students.

Mobile technology has helped us by developing an ease of
  • Editing digital video clips
  • Using a start/stop/restart approach
  • Videoing at home, school, work, public transportation
Also, an ease of transitioning to audio only by
  • Hearing prompts through ear buds
  • Start and stop on ear bud

Video modeling is developing a video using the individual it is designed to support (or can be developed by using a peer) doing the specific task you wish to teach.  Once developed, the student watches it and follows the model.  Because the task has been put to video, the student has the ability to watch the model over and over, as many times as needed.  There is increasing research about VM's effectiveness for a variety of individuals. The National Professional Development Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders has provided us: Evidence-Based Practice: Video Modeling and the CEC's article: A Meta-Analysis of Video Modeling and Video Self-Modeling Interventions for Children and Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorders, worth taking the time to explore.

To summarize:
  • Video modeling is a teaching strategy in which a teacher shows a video of desired behaviors or interactions to an individual student or small group of students.
  • The student imitates the behavior or interaction when in the appropriate situation.

According to The NPDC on ASD, "Video modeling is a mode of teaching that uses video recording and display equipment to provide a visual model of the targeted behavior or skill. Types of video modeling include basic video modeling, video self-modeling, point-of-view video modeling, and video prompting. Basic video modeling involves recording someone besides the learner engaging in the target behavior or skill (i.e., models). The video is then viewed by the learner at a later time. Video self-modeling is used to record the learner displaying the target skill or behavior and is reviewed later. Point-of-view video modeling is when the target behavior or skill is recorded from the perspective of the learner. Video prompting involves breaking the behavior skill into steps and recording each step with incorporated pauses during which the learner may attempt the step before viewing subsequent steps. Video prompting may be done with either the learner or someone else acting as a model."

Michael Leventhal explains how, “Video Modeling is a method of teaching in which a student learns by watching a model on a videotape demonstrating the target skill. Video Modeling has been tested to help with communication, disruptive classroom behavior, increasing on-task behavior, … teach complex social sequences, as a treatment procedure, as an evidence-based treatment for children with autism.”  With today’s technology it makes the use of video modeling much easier, faster, convenient and more affordable than it was before.

What are the steps of creating VM?
  1. Determine the skill that you want the individual to learn. It can be a skill such as communicating and interacting with others, or it can be a basic skill such as cleaning a table.
  2. Select a setting that is contributing to the task you want to teach. Also determine if you will need others to participate in the video.
  3. Decide on the video camera to be used. A mobile phone works just fine! You just want to be able to transfer it to the desired media for individual viewing (Possibly an iPad.)
  4. Ask someone to film the demonstration. Have adults or peers perform the task and record it. Recordings are usually brief and to the point. Remember: if the recording is too long, students may become distracted or confused by too much information.
  5. Show the recording to the individual (this can also be done for a group). Let them watch the video as many times as needed. This is the real benefit of VM's. 
  6. Ask the individual to model the behavior they have watched on the video. Let them attempt the skill on their own without any coaching.
  7. Provide individuals with feedback and appropriate reinforcement.
  8. Have individual repeat what they learned on another day. Show the video again if necessary and repeat the steps until they begin to master the skill.

National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders provides modules on Video Modeling “Steps for Implementation” which include:
Step 1. Targeting a Behavior for Teaching
Step 2. Having the Correct Equipment
Step 3. Planning for the Video Recording
Step 4. Collecting Baseline Data
Step 5. Making the Video
Step 6. Arranging the Environment for Watching the Video
Step 7. Showing the Video
Step 8. Monitoring Progress
Step 9. Troubleshooting if the Learner is Not Making Progress

Ideas for topics:
See page 4 of the following article: Video Modeling
A Visually Based Intervention for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder by Jennifer B. Ganz, Theresa L. Earles-Vollrath and Katherine E. Cook

Apps to consider:
You really do not need an app as your phone camera will work just fine. The phone camera's are getting better and better with more options for refining but as you know, if you want more, you need to invest. Be sure to consider how the app lets you share the video to be sure it corresponds with your needs. Some allow you to share via email or social medias yet some only allow you to use it through their program itself. Remember, videos are memory intensive. I prefer using a video program that I can view and back-up on the computer so I am not eating up my real estate on my mobile devices.  Another consideration is tech support. With free you do not have tech support. With apps from a company such as Assistiveware, you will receive some tech support when needed.

  • iMovie - $4.99(One of the simplest video editing apps.)
  • Pictello from Assistiveware - $19.99 (This really is the best "affordable" app as it can be used for various things in your environment, not just a VM app. It was designed for use with our population! You get word prediction, text-to-speech, really a tool for your students to use to develop writing and presentations along with a visual story creator.)
Misc. Resources:
  • YouTube  "Video Modeling" Students with autism in Kim Brown's special day class at La Costa Heights Elementary School see and hear how their regular education classmates interact. Brown created the program to help her special education students learn appropriate classroom and playground behaviors. And as a bonus, regular education students who assist in the program are learning tolerance through the novel program that uses video cameras and video players.

VM is especially helpful for those activities or behaviors that you can't model in class as well as those that are logistically difficult to model frequently (grocery shopping, eating at a restaurant, a field trip). Remember to share your videos with parents too as they can reinforce the behaviors in the home also.

For more resources and videos that others have developed, please see my Pinterest Video Modeling board.