HELP FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH ASPERGER'S & HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM

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Video-Modeling: The “Most Effective” Social-Skills Training Tool?

“Video-modeling” may be one of the most effective social-skills training tools used for kids with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA). This technique involves the child watching a video demonstration of a behavior, and then imitating the behavior of the model. Video-modeling may be used with the child’s parents, teachers, friends – or self as a model (called “self-modeling”). Self-modeling techniques have the added advantage of providing AS and HFA youngsters with a visual representation of their own success (i.e., they can view themselves successfully engaging in a behavior or activity). Self-modeling can be used to promote skill acquisition, boost skill performance, and decrease problem behaviors. It utilizes a powerful learning medium for kids on the spectrum (i.e., visually-cued instruction) with an effective, evidence-based intervention strategy.

Research demonstrates great promise for the use of video-modeling and self-modeling. In one study, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of these two techniques involving 63 participants on the autism spectrum. Results suggest that video-modeling and self-modeling are effective interventions for addressing social-communication skills, behavioral functioning, and functional skills in kids and teenagers with AS and HFA. Specifically, these interventions promote skill acquisition – and the skills acquired are maintained over time and transferred across the individual and settings (i.e., they appear to be effective interventions for kids across the autism spectrum from early childhood to the teenage years). According to the study, video-modeling and self-modeling produced rapid increases in targeted skills with a median intervention length of 9 video viewings. Also, the median duration of the video clips shown to participants was only 3 minutes. 

Video-modeling can also be used with low-frequency behaviors (i.e., behaviors that rarely occur), or behaviors that were once mastered – but are no longer. In this case, the child is videotaped while engaging in a low-frequency behavior (e.g., playing with peers), and then shown the video to demonstrate how successful he or she was in engaging in appropriate social interaction. Researchers have used this version of video-modeling to increase “responding behaviors” in kids on the autism spectrum. The kids in the study watched videotapes of themselves answering questions while participating in play activities. Even though answering questions was a low-frequency behavior for these kids, the videos were edited (i.e., non-responses were edited-out) to depict the kids as fluent in their responses. The technique produced rapid increases in unprompted verbal responding. 

Video-modeling can also be used when AS and HFA children already possess the necessary skills in their behavioral repertoire, but are unable to put them together to complete an activity. For example, a youngster may have the ability to look at his Math assignment, find his Math book, work on the assigned Math problems, and turn his homework in to the teacher – but can’t perform these skills in the proper sequence. This form of video-modeling would involve videotaping the child engaging in each of these tasks, and then splicing the segments together to form the proper sequence. The same technique can be used with typical social interaction sequences. For example, the youngster could be videotaped demonstrating three different skills: starting a conversation, maintaining the conversation in a reciprocal manner, and appropriately terminating the conversation. The three scenes could then be blended together to demonstrate one successful, fluent social interaction.  

Lastly, video-modeling can also be used when AS and HFA kids need additional support to complete tasks successfully. The concept of “hidden supports” is an important factor here. For example, the youngster may be videotaped interacting with his friends while the parent provides assistance through cueing and prompting. The “parent prompt” is edited-out (i.e., hidden) so that when the youngster views the video segment, he sees himself as independent and successful. 

The science behind the effectiveness of video-modeling is strong. In numerous studies, it has been shown to be the most effective method for teaching social skills and target behaviors to kids on the autism spectrum, such as:
  • academic skills
  • communication skills
  • daily living skills
  • functional skills
  • perception of emotion
  • perspective taking
  • play skills
  • social initiations
  • social interaction behaviors
  • spontaneous requesting

Video-modeling can teach target behaviors very quickly compared to other methods, and the behavior is said to be "generalized," (i.e., the youngster is able to exhibit the behavior in real-life situations that are similar to the research scenario). At the same time, video-modeling has been proven to decrease certain problem behaviors (e.g., aggression, tantrums, and other off-task activities).

There are several key characteristics of kids with AS and HFA that favor the use of video-modeling over other social-skills training methods, for example:
  • ability to process visual information more readily than verbal information
  • avoidance of face-to-face interactions
  • over-selective attention, making them very prone to distraction
  • preference for visual stimuli and visually-cued instruction
  • restricted field of focus

Because they can be replayed over and over as needed without additional cost, videos have been in use as a social-skills training tool for decades. The same entertainment appeal that videos hold for “typical” kids  applies to AS and HFA kids as well – only much more so! Since kids on the autism spectrum respond more readily to visual cues, videos have a more powerful effect on them (i.e., are more motivating and provide more positive reinforcement).

Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management

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My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually. Thus, the best treatment for Aspergers children and teens is, without a doubt, “social skills training.”

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers and HFA can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

Research reveals that the divorce rate for people with Aspergers is around 80%. Why so high!? The answer may be found in how the symptoms of Aspergers affect intimate relationships. People with Aspergers often find it difficult to understand others and express themselves. They may seem to lose interest in people over time, appear aloof, and are often mistaken as self-centered, vain individuals.

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Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes. The hardest part is you feel like you’ll never actually get to know your child and how he/she views the world.

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