Using First Person Video Modeling as a Tool to Teach Children on the Autism Spectrum How to Play with Toys

Kids find the funniest things to love on YouTube, don’t they? My autistic students (click HERE to read why I use identity-first language) in particular find videos they feel so passionately about. Well, research indicates that first person POV video modeling may be particularly helpful in introducing autistic children to new play skills.

To this end, I have created a series on YouTube! You can find the playlist HERE.

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At the time of this blog post, videos include modeling with a ring stacker, Mr. Potato Headjack-in-the-box, and farm animal pop-blocs. You can click the name of any of these toys to get a closer look if you think your kid might enjoy them. Below are some direct links to the videos:

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If you are interested in making your own video models, there are a few key factors to consider:

  • restricted display (fewer visual distractions)
  • repetitive presentation
  • first-person point of view

You can click here, here, and here for some more information on the evidence base for video modeling as a teaching tool.

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Remember that play is a JOB for our children, and they may seem disinterested in first. While our aim should never be to change the play of an autistic child, we can absolutely introduce them to new ways to interact with their environment, just like we would with any child.

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Maybe on day one they touch the toy for a second. Day two they watch you play with it. Day three they tolerate hand-over-hand to stack one block or push one button. Day four they stack one block in imitation.
This is an example of the incremental changes we are looking for. BABY. STEPS. Don’t give up after the first minutes, days, weeks, or even months.

It’s time well spent.

Not only does playing with toys develop fine motor skills, it is the foundation for language. Play skills can lend themselves to increased social interaction (and therefore friend-making skills), interaction with one’s environment, and the ability to act out in play that which may occur in the real world. I recently saw a quote from Dr. Karyn Purvis that reads,

“Scientists have recently determined that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain- unless it is done with play, in which case, it takes between 10-20 repetitions.”

This quote may not be directly applicable to our kids with ASD but it does speak to the power and importance of play.

If you know a child who struggles with interacting with new objects, please also consider seeking additional referrals-

Occupational therapists are invaluable to the team. Fine motor abilities play an enormous part of what a child is able or willing to play with. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… we’re all in this together!

You may find milestones for play skills from the CDC’s website. The CDC is a wealth of information!

Best of luck to you! Just remember, there is no “one way” to help these kids. I hope these videos can be useful tools but they are not a guarantee- nothing is! Just don’t give up until you find your answers! If you’re looking for more support with your students, consider becoming a VIP and getting an instant Autism freebie!

Best of luck!

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Hi I’m Lindsey! I’m a pediatric SLP who specializes in the R sound. Fun fact- I actually used to dread the R but after dedicating a lot (like… a lot a lot) of time to researching and troubleshooting… I now love it! So much, in fact, that I currently spend my days treating “R kids” via my private practice and creating R resources and continuing education for SLPs via Speechy Things. I’m so glad you found me! Let’s “Rock the R” together!

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