One in 68 Children has Autism

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Why the Holidays Can Be So Difficult for Families Dealing with Autism and What You Can Do to Help Make This Holiday Season Easier

November 28, 2011 5:20 pm Published by
Photo by veggiefrog
The holidays can be a joyful and stressful time of year for most of us, but can be even more stressful when dealing with a loved one with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Individuals with an ASD may need extra time adjusting at family gatherings, may require additional preparations before family events, and tools (i.e., picture schedules, coping strategies) that will make the holidays more predictable and part of their routines. Proactive measures will help and prepare both the individual with the ASD and their families. Remember to keep in mind that you can always say no to a family or friend’s event, if you know ahead of time that the individual with the ASD will not be able to tolerate the holiday occasion.

The following is an article which discusses common issues you might encounter during the holidays, and strategies to make the next couple of weeks go a little smoother.

Published on November 7, 2010 by Chantal Sicile-Kira in The Autism Advocate

Often parents in the autism community will joke that they become more religious during the holiday season that begins with Thanksgiving: we pray our children will behave while we are visiting relatives, we pray they will show interest in their gifts (and not just the ribbon), we pray they will sit at the dinner table, we pray they won’t hit the relative who tries to kiss them, and above all – we pray that we will have the strength to politely ignore the judgments passed upon us and our ‘misbehaving’ children.

Here are some areas of difficulties for children on the spectrum and their families during the holiday season, from the book, 41 Things to Know About Autism:

• The stores are full of noise, lights, lots of people, and winter holiday music that can create major overwhelm for those with sensory processing challenges.
• Social requirements such as relatives wanting a hug or a kiss that can feel painful.
• Holiday dinners where they are expected to try foods or sit for long periods of time with so many people and so much commotion.
• Many children are mesmerized by the colors and textures of the ribbon and wrapping paper and do not open the present but self-stimulate (get engrossed and perseverate) with the wrapping
• The child does not understand personal space or have safety notions and so may run around the house or try to play with something breakable.
• Relatives may think that the child is misbehaving, and may try to discipline the child, not realizing that the child really can’t help it, and that discipline is not helpful when it comes to sensory overload and high anxiety.
• Parents have a difficult time because they know there are certain expectations of behavior that relatives and friends have and that the child cannot fulfill.

What can you do? With some preparation, planning and information sharing, the holidays can be less stressful and more enjoyable. Here are some tips on how to prepare your friends and relatives whom you will be visiting:

• Explain the difficulties your child has with the holiday dinner environment, decorations, noise etc.
• Let them know he is not just misbehaving, and that he is learning little by little to handle these situations
• Explain about dietary challenges so they don’t expect him to eat what everyone else is eating.
• Ask if there is a quiet room (child -proof in terms of décor) where your child can retreat for some quiet time to escape the commotion and noise.
• Send them a short but sweet letter or email ahead of time explaining why your child acts the way he does and the difficulties of the holidays form his point of view. They will have a better understanding of why she won’t wear a dress or he won’t wear a necktie, and why as more and more people start arriving, he tries to escape the room.

To prepare your child:

• Make a social stories book about what will be happening and the behavioral expectations. If possible include photos of who he will be seeing, the house decorated during last year’s holiday season. If he is going to church, do the same for that environment.
• Play some of the music he may be hearing at this holiday season.
• Practice unwrapping presents – wrap a bunch of boxes up with favorite treats inside and have him open them to get to them.
• Practice a handshake if he can tolerate that.
• Write rules together – i.e., how long he thinks he can tolerate sitting at table, and the expected behavior.

On the day of the holiday celebration:

• Remind your child of the agreed upon rules
• Pack some little toys he can play with in his lap at the dinner table
• Bring some foods he can eat, especially if he is on a specific diet.
• Arrive early so that the noise level builds up slowly for him.
• Do not let the expectations of others ruin your day. Do what you need to do to make it as comfortable as possible for you and your child.

Holidays can be difficult because of all the expectations, as well as the sensory challenges, but with planning and information sharing the holidays can be more enjoyable for all.

Celebrity Hosts and Judges announced for “Got Talent 2” Grand Finale [Updated]

November 21, 2011 3:57 pm Published by
Musical comedy sensation The Parodivas will host the grand finale of “Got Talent 2,” a benefit for QSAC. The event will take place November 29 at 7 PM at the Midtown Theater.
The panel of celebrity judges will include comedy’s lovable ‘Queen of Mean’, Lisa Lampanelli; Acclaimed TV, Broadway and cabaret performer, Eileen Fulton; and talent manager Henry Ravelo, of Six Degrees Mgmt & PR.

Martha Wash, an original member of the disco group The Weather Girls, who were Grammy-nominated for “It’s Raining Men,” will perform her new hit.

Twelve finalists will take part in the competition. Semifinals are currently taking place. Each finalist has a webpage to collect additional votes and raise funds for QSAC; each vote costs a dollar.
Entertainment industry professionals during the quarterfinals included: Janet Pailet (TV/Film Producer), Steph Watts (TV Reporter/Host), Ben Cameron (Actor/Host), Gayle Seay (Casting Director), Robin Lyon (Actress), Paul Wontorek (Editor-in-chief/, Barry Kolker (Talent Agent), Casper Andreas (Producer/Writer), Hugh Hysell (President of HHC Marketing), and Emily McNamara (Actress).
The Midtown Theater is located at 163 West 46th St. For tickets ($25 to $150), more information and to vote online, visit

Autism: What to Expect in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Edition (DSM-V)

November 21, 2011 12:46 pm Published by
There is a growing consensus to redefine the assessment and diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which will culminate in the publication of the DSM-V expected to be released in 2013. The three symptom domains of the DSM-IV (impairment in socialization, language and speech deficits, and restricted repetitive patterns of behaviors) will likely become two in the DSM-V (Social/communication deficits and fixated interests and repetitive behaviors). Advanced knowledge and methods of diagnosis suggest that deficits in communication and social behaviors are inseparable and represent a single set of symptoms. Delays in language are not unique or universal in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which may be considered as a factor that influences the clinical symptoms of ASD, instead of a defining diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Merging both criteria of social and communication deficits is thought to improve the specificity of the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The DSM-V is proposing to regroup the five diagnostic categories listed in the DSM-IV, which include autistic disorder (autism), Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (NOS), and Rett’s Disorder, into one category, autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Therefore, Autism Spectrum Disorder will include all previous categories except Rett’s Disorder and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, which are understood to have a distinct genetic component.

Presently, the standard clinical practice is to make the diagnosis of autism prior to 3 years of age, especially for those individuals at risk of autism (developmental delays, challenging behaviors, birth defects, epilepsy among others conditions). Clinicians can use different tools (e.g. ADI-R, ADOS, M-CHAT) to make the diagnosis, although it can be a challenge to determine what evaluation tool to use.

Since the criteria for diagnosis in the DSM-V are based on certain observed behaviors and some social symptoms appear later in life especially for Asperger’s Disorders individuals, the diagnosis will likely continue to represent a challenge for clinicians and parents (Matson, et al. 2012). For instance, sometimes parents may have early concerns about some symptoms that are not included within the autism diagnostic criteria and not likely to result in the diagnosis at that time. Yet, at a late time, their child may still receive the diagnosis due to other presenting symptoms that are specific to the diagnosis. For making accurate diagnoses, we believe that clinicians should pay attention to motor and emotional problems, and/or the level of a child’s activity in infancy (Lord et al. 2011). According to Lorna Wing and colleagues (2011), it seems that the DSM-V committee should make the DSMV-criteria unequivocal and practical for clinicians. Ultimately, the precise diagnosis of autism is hindered by our incomplete understanding of the neuropathological basis of autism and the lack of objective biological measurements for its detection.
DSM: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association and provides a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders.

Board Member Paul Halvatzis featured in The Queens Gazette

November 18, 2011 3:24 pm Published by

The following excerpt was published in the November 16, 2011 issue of The Queens Gazette:
Shaving For Autism
To The Editor:
My son Paul has autism and has been receiving outstanding care from Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC) for many years.
Today these services are in jeopardy due to severe government cutbacks and I am asking for your help in raising funds to maintain the vital services that QSAC provides to my son and many other families across New York City and Long Island.
Recently my children challenged me to do something I have not done in more than 35 years. I will shave my mustache in an effort to raise support for the autism community. On December 30 at 6:00 p.m. at the Redken Saloon Salon in Astoria, I am going to have my mustache shaved off and am hoping that I can count on you, my friends and neighbors, to help me use this opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of thousands of people. With your help, I can raise my goal of $35,000.
Autism is the fastest-growing childhood disorder in America and is now considered a public health crisis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that an average of one in 110 children (one in 70 boys) in the U.S is living with autism. There is still no cure for autism. But there is QSAC. Please help me make this campaign a success. 
Go to and make a donation. I personally invite all supporters in the Astoria community to come and show you care and enjoy some wine and cheese with me at the December 30 event at Redken Saloon Salon at 36-17 30th Ave. in Astoria. All the funds that we raise together through the Mustache for Cash Campaign will go directly to helping people with autism and their families. For more information or to make a donation via the phone, call QSAC at 718-7-AUTISM, ext. 2059.
Paul Halvatzis
Astoria, N.Y. 

The Holidays and Autism…A Little Preparation Goes a Long Way

November 16, 2011 2:21 pm Published by

Hard to believe, but the holiday season is here! Everyone is busy cooking, shopping for gifts, company is coming over, school is out…The holiday season is magical for some, but can be hectic for a family with an autistic child. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa–whatever your personal celebrations are, there is a lot to take in when you have a child on the spectrum. For children with autism this time of year can be particularly overwhelming: lights, crowds, traffic, visitors, waiting in line – this upsets children who are used to a particular routine. This time of year brings the autistic child and the entire family out of their usual routine and exposes them to people and places that they may not be familiar with. This can create a host of problems, including increased stress levels for all involved.

Social requirements such as relatives wanting a hug or a kiss can be overwhelming for your child. Holiday dinners can be especially difficult – your child may be expected to try new foods or sit for long periods of time with a lot of people and a lot of noise. Your child may not understand personal space or safety and may run around the house or try to play with something breakable. If your child cannot communicate what he/she wants tantrums might ensue. Relatives may think that the child is misbehaving, and may try to discipline the child, not realizing that the child really can’t help it, and that discipline is not helpful when it comes to sensory overload and high anxiety. 
Now is a good time to take a deep breath and make some very specific plans that will help you get through this period. What can you do? With some preparation, planning and information sharing, the holidays can be less stressful and more enjoyable. Here are some tips on how to prepare your friends and relatives whom you will be visiting the next few months more easily.
Like any behavior we are trying to increase, behaviors we want to see during the holidays need to be practiced and reinforced. Creating similar situations to holiday events where your child can be reinforced is a good start. For example, you can place a wrapped gift in front of your child and prompt him/her to wait or keep hands down and reinforce this behavior. You can reinforce your child for keeping ornaments on the tree. At the beginning of the holiday’s establish these types of clear “holiday rules”. These rules tell your child about your expectations and should be positive. Use “do” statements rather than “don’t statements”. For example “hands down” rather than “no, stop touching”.
Remember your child’s needs. Try not to have unrealistic expectations for your child when visitors or relatives are over. A little advanced preparation can lessen your child’s anxiety. You can help your child by trying to keep his/her usual routines. Try to keep mealtimes and bedtime the same. Ask if there is a quiet room if you are at a relative’s house where your child can retreat for some quiet time to escape the commotion and noise.
Holidays can be confusing from your child’s point of view. You can also prepare for the holidays by thinking of them in terms of activities that occur before, during and after the holidays. Examples include cleaning the house, getting decorations out, taking photos, shopping, buying a tree, starting school vacation, taking decorations down and writing thank you notes. Providing information in a way that your child understands is essential. Give your child lots of information, for example, mark special days on the calendar. Use picture symbols to support routines and aid in communication. Use social stories – these personalized stories can be used to incorporate what will be happening in the days ahead. Include photos of who he/she will be seeing or the house decorated during last year’s holiday season.
Click here for a Thanksgiving Social Story:
Click here for a Free Thanksgiving coloring book that discusses food you will eat, guests, etc.
Play some of the music he/she may be hearing at this holiday season. Some other behaviors you can work on to prepare your child are practicing unwrapping presents – wrap a bunch of boxes up with favorite treats inside and have him open them to get to them. Practice a handshake . Practice tolerating sitting at table.
Also, where will you be spending the holidays? Call or email your extended family or friends and let them know what your plans are and what you need from them. Make decisions based on what is truly best for your child. Call in advance and discuss specific details of the gathering. Who will be there? Do all of the people in attendance know your child? Does everyone know what Autism Spectrum Disorder is? Are they comfortable and familiar with your child’s special needs? Cover all your bases several weeks in advance by writing a group email or letter to those who will be in attendance. Let them know the things that your child is uncomfortable with, but also the things they are particularly fond of.
Remember, it’s up to you. With a little advanced planning the holiday season can be enjoyable for you and your child.
Click here for a letter to family/friends

New York Becomes 29th State to Adopt Autism Insurance Reform

November 14, 2011 2:35 pm Published by
photo by Patja

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed into law one of the most comprehensive autism insurance reform measures in the nation, Assembly Bill 8512 ( This new law requires insurance companies to provide coverage of critical autism therapies for both children and adults.

The new law will provide coverage of evidence-based, medically necessary autism therapies, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA). It will take effect in 12 months – on November 1, 2012.

Planning online BA in Disability Studies

November 14, 2011 2:19 pm Published by
I’ve been part of a committee working on an online BA in Disability Studies geared to direct support workers.
The proposed BA will be coming up for a vote at The City University of New York very soon. Before it can move forward, the Executive Vice Chancellor would like to know of potential interest in the BA degree from workers in the field.
So, I need help to survey workers. If you have a BA, you are welcome to complete the survey, but responses from those who may not have a BA are especially useful.
The survey is on SurveyMonkey – it’s very short and will only take 2-3 minutes to complete. 
Thanks for your help!

Stuck and Chatter [Guest Blog]

November 11, 2011 9:10 pm Published by
As I’ve said before, I am me and I think I’m perfectly normal. I don’t know any other self, any other mind or body, and so how could I feel like I’m lacking or unusual? I can’t. And I don’t.
But I do spend quite a lot of time lost inside my head. It hurts, literally hurts, to be pulled out and forced to engage. Sometimes I can’t and I shut down. Today, staff was here and I ate my potato and typed and just went away for a while. Staff knows not to talk to me or anything else when I’m either shoving my face in the cat or typing. That’s my time, and that’s my signal to them that I need a break. When I’m ready, I come back again.
Nobody ever asks me what goes on in my head. They ask what I think, or how I feel, or what I believe, or for my perspective… but that’s different. That’s what my mind does, my being. But my head does its own thing altogether.
Two things predominate in my head. One is the stuck. I’m always stuck. I get one thought, and that’s all that exists and that becomes my everything for the time being. As you may (should?) know by now, Elsie P is the number one subject of the stuck. I’ve been stuck on my cat for almost 14 years, and guess what? It’s not going anywhere. I can get stuck on needing something, wanting something, wanting someone, worrying about something, seeing something, going somewhere… you name it, I can get stuck on it.
There is good and bad to the stuck. On the one hand, I can be deemed obsessive and maniacal and even inconsiderate. So, your dad is sick? Well, I have a cat. My cat is Elsie Penelope. She’s nearly 14 and has little white toes and a nose like an eraser…
But the good is that accomplish a lot, most especially what I set out to do. I have a one-track mind, and if I have a goal, chances are very, very good that I’ll meet that goal. Like, if I want to write a book… or if I want to be a speaker… or if I want my dog… it’s gonna happen.
There’s another common theme in my brain, though, and that’s the chatter. My brain just goes, and goes, and goes… and it makes zero sense. You know how you dream when you’re asleep and it’s senseless? Well, my brain has auditory dreams 24/7 and they’re ridiculous. Sometimes I just sit and listen to the chatter… “Wigwam. Z, Z, Z. High school band pants. Pea-coat green…” and so it goes, on and on. It can be tough to catch, because it’s like looking directly at a star… if you look sideways at the star, it seems very bright, but if you look right at it, it’s not very bright at all. Well, with the chatter, if I listen directly to it, it gets very quiet and hard to hear. So I listen for flashes, and I entertain myself.
My revelations (that’s what I call a new realization or synthesis of two concepts that I’ve never joined before) do not usually come from within my mind. They come from without. I just… come upon them, and there they are. I probably get a revelation between one and four times a week, and sometimes that becomes the topic of the stuck for a few days. Then the chatter, well, who knows what it’s doing.
It can be really, really hard to focus beyond all this stuff! I tend to fall into my head when people talk to me. If you talk for more than… I should really time it sometime so I can be accurate… oh, say thirty seconds?… I’m somewhere else. The chatter has begun again (I can turn it off long enough to listen to a few sentences), and I’m back to the stuck. And then add in trying to sort through external sensory input… and really, I’m not really taking much in anymore.
The good thing is that the stuck and the chatter and the sensory issues weren’t quite as bad when I was younger, so I was able to learn. I know for a fact I couldn’t handle a classroom environement anymore. I wouldn’t take in anything. I’m lucky I remember what class I’m taking in bible study… but I honestly don’t know anything much that he says.
I’m not saying that every autistic person has the same head issues I do! Everyone is different, to be sure. I just thought I’d explain mine (believe you me that this was NOT easy to figure all this stuff out; I’ve been working on it for months to be able to type this about it).
I don’t like to leave on a negative (i.e., “Here’s all the junk going on in my brain and woe am I for it.”) No, no. That won’t do. And so, I give you, “How you can interact with me in light of this information.” Cause, see, I try really, really hard to be polite, so I’m not likely to stop you and ask you to change your style. I feel guilty. I spend way more time than I let on… well, confused.
  1. Slow down.
  2. Less words please.
  3. No soliloquies. Give me a sentence or two, and stop. Let me take it in. Check if I heard you. Then continue. What happens if you give me more is one of two things: either I tune you out, or I latch on to one word or small idea within your speech and respond only to that, because I can’t process all of it.
  4. I listen to the loudest thing, which includes the chatter in my head. I cannot block out something louder than you and listen to you anyway. I simply can’t hear you. If it’s too loud, we need to go somewhere else, or we need to switch modalities.
  5. If I repeat what you say more than once or twice, or if I ask you to repeat it more than that, please write it down for me. Text it to me. Email it to me. Type it up on my iPod for me. It’ll sink right in.
  6. If I’m not really responding and you’re frustrated (Dude, come on… I just told you my whole life story and all you have is “oh”?), ask me if I can type for you. You’ll get a lot more.
  7. I hope I’m not asking too much. I really hope. I’m trying to make for an overall positive communication experience for both of us, keeping everything in mind that’s making it challenging.
Lydia Wayman is a 23-year-old Pittsburgher who loves cats, writing, more cats, and more writing. She also has autism. Lydia found her voice through typing and uses her writing ability, combined with a degree in education, to blog, write books, speak, and consult for families. She believes that a girl with a dream and a keyboard can change the world and has set out to do just that.

On Video Modeling…

November 1, 2011 1:19 pm Published by
When talking about ideas for our blog, someone suggested that I write a poem; luckily I had already written one. It’s somewhat related to the topic of this blog, I’ve also been told that it’s kind of cheesy:
And This Is Our Focus…
To create an environment where our experience can focus on motivating our children to learn what we have the capability to teach them.
To promote the idea that we should reinforce not only our students, but also one another.
To create a strong sense of teamwork within our classroom, by placing our minds on the same page and our eyes on each other’s needs.
To ask for help, honesty, and dependability from those who give us feedback.
To utilize creative new technologies to help our students learn and make tools to get the job done.
To learn from our students, so that they can learn from us.
Utilize creative new technologies? Here we go another “hot topic” clinical blog about Video Modeling (VM). Just another “hot-topic” surely, we get the reasons why it’s so interesting. Kids like watching videos, right? Videos make the job easier for the teachers, right? No. In fact implementing VM takes more time, and certainly watching the teacher do something they may find boring, is surely not motivation. What we really need to do is explore more about the basic terms of ABA: Modeling, Shaping and Chaining, after that rendering videos can be a piece of cake, if you have the right tools.
So you decided to take on a VM project? Read about the basics modeling, prompt procedures and transfer of stimulus control. What the child has learned from the clips, (demonstrated), and transferred to the natural environment is the true test. Not only rendering video clips, but also figuring out what steps to teach the student. Are you teaching novel play sequences? (Mangiapanello and Taylor 2003) Or Spontaneous requests? (Wert and Neisworth, 2003) Putting our arms up, and running in place, you may not need a video model. Does a longer task need to be broken down into smaller steps? The procedure in this blog is based on teaching a student to fold clothes using a video model, a long chain of behaviors which we had to capture (in a video clips) each specific step broken down to help the learner view and demonstrate it appropriately.
We have read how VM researchers have demonstrated that the use of video models outweighs simple, real life “In-Vivo” prompting demonstration techniques and with practice can carry over (generalize) to skills in other areas. (Charlop-Christy, M.H., Le and Freeman, 2000) So how do we make it work? Is it simple to demonstrate?
The steps in the videos that you are going to teach must be parsimonious, straight and to the point with enough time for you to manage delivery the prompts and reinforcement in between. And the procedure must be clean and implemented consistently. Abstract ideas, motions, or actions can be too complicated and can send the student a confusing message. They may focus on a point on the video that you can’t control for even other distractions in the environment.
We found some students do not to attend to VM at all. When attempting VM procedures, one of the first things I noticed was that some of the students did not have the pre-requisites such as sitting appropriately or even attending to the television. This is where the work needs to start. It all falls back to the principles of prompting compliance, teaching the skill and transferring over stimulus control to a naturally occurring stimulus. Initially the student hasn’t established the pre-requisites skills and there is no established connection between what’s going on in the TV to what we are asking them to do. We needed to start with having the student attending to the media, then add the teaching clips. Once attending was established, continuing onto the teaching clips and using most to least prompting graduated guidance to get the responses that we are looking for in the video clip. As we went on asking ourselves, can the student fold the clothes after we’ve turned off that VM?
On Motivation:
So forget it, VM isn’t working we’ll just teach him to fold clothes the “old fashion” way…but wait… sometimes the “old fashion way” still may not work because we are lacking an arsenal of powerful reinforcers.
Televisions and videos may not be inherently motivating. You may need additional reinforcers. It’s not SpongeBob, its Dan Nemeth, folding shirts (not that motivating). Other reinforcers should be present in the initial phases while the child sits and attends to the video, but we know they must eventually be faded out. This can be achieved by pairing the video models with a highly preferred items or activities (social praise, toys or watching highly preferred video clips) in the presence of the video model (as mentioned earlier) as a reward for completing the task! Frequent sessions of shaping “watching behavior” can be accomplished by 10 minute sessions of providing reinforcement for looking at the screen and partial/gesture prompts when student is not attending. Students are more likely to attend when they’re motivated by what they are watching.
This can help to increase attending in the initial phases. I found that it’s helpful to have someone working with me in the beginning, to make the process of teaching to deliver the additional reinforcers, help prompt correct response, or help pause, or move forward thru the video clips. You may even get “The great attender” the student who is inherently motivated to sit nicely, watch the clips, understands what is expected, and folds the shirt!

Getting it going…

The procedures you need are separate from the preparation of the actual videos, and as any good educator know, you have to prepare the lesson well in advance (prepare the data sheets then prepare the videos). Remember, we cannot control every variable in the environment; we are just trying to teach someone to fold a shirt, who has probably never needed to do so before. Be patient, and make changes to the data sheets or the videos if you need to. Once you have the correct types of video clips made, and the procedure nailed down, you can replicate it again with other students and other tasks. VM has many applications that have demonstrated success you can apply it to several areas:
— social interaction behaviors
— academic and functional skills
— communication skills
— daily living skills
— play skills
— social initiations
— perception of emotion
— spontaneous requesting

Making the videos:

New video modeling software can cost thousands of dollars and only make the process 30% less annoying. Most video cameras have the ability to easily transfer to the computer, which can be plugged into most video displays, I’ve taken video clips using an MP3 camcorder, mini flip cameras, or even your regular point and shoot camera can handle this job. Somewhat tedious, but if you have the skills to do it, I highly recommend editing your videos before transferring them. Some companies started making the clips for you. I recommend against this, because what we are teaching may not fit into their “mold.” Just do it yourself.

Create DVD:
Most cameras come with a type of simple software which will help you burn the clips you’ve taken onto DVDS, or to the TV Directly. You can show these clips and set up a DVD workstation.

What’s great about this traditional set up is that you can use the controller to pause, rewind, and flip between clips on the DVD. And you can sit the student at the table in front of the set-up. It’s less mobile, but more helpful when teaching table top activities.
Using a tablet or smart phone: 

Capture your video clips with the device, and then use the video playback feature to show the student. You can line up several videos, pause, rewind and skip between videos. This is great portable technology enabling to teach your student “on the go” and for students who show more attending skills.
Video Photo Frames: 
render the video and transfer to photo frames. Many of them now have the capability to show short videos. It’s very easy to flip back and forth between video clips. This can be a bit less expensive than a tablet or smart phone; frames are easy on mobility but poor on battery life.
We mentioned above the different displays that can be used. And everyone can point and record a sequence of events, but when creating VM’s you have to set certain constraints which may take some time to edit or re-take until you’ve got it right. Hine and Wolery (2006) demonstrated successful types of models are “point of view”, where the task of activity is located directly in front of someone sitting in front of a table, or from the view of the person. For the example in this blog, when folding, the model will fold clothes directly in front of the camera. This profile allows you to stand behind the student to provide all physical prompting. When the student demonstrates the skill consistently, you may fade back or to the side.
Teaching example: This is a basic example of how we were able to demonstrate the use of video models for folding. It’s a simple ABA reversal. It might vary from the typical discrete formats we are all used to. It did not fully account for experimental control.
You will need:
— Your premade video clips
— 2 pairs of pants
— 2 pairs of shirts
— Task analysis data sheets, graphs
— Reinforcers
Teaching Arrangement
Staff and student will sit in front of a television screen equipped with a DVD player and a remote control, DVD contaning video model clips, Steps in the videos should match the steps on your data sheet. Two pairs of pants and two shirts will also be present. Staff member will sit behind the student or to the side of the student. Highly preferred items will also be present and delivered for the correct completed sequences or series of chained steps in the task analysis. You may also provide social praise for appropriate sitting/attending. Data Sheet Example:

Two shirts folded = Two sessions on your Shirts Data Sheet

Two pants folded = Two sessions on your Pants Data Sheet


No Video Model will be shown at this time. Student is prompted to complete all of the steps. Data is collected.


Prior to having the student fold clothing, instructor presents a video model only 1 article of clothing as outlined in the DVD (Shirts or Pants). After the model has been viewed, the television is turned off and the student is asked to “fold clothing”. Each step will be prompted using most to least format and graduated guidance. Social praise can be delivered for appropriate attending or sitting at this time. Remember you are always looking for independent steps.
Mastery criteria: 100% accurate and independent responding for all of the target responses for each activity for at least 2 consecutive sessions. Once this mastery level is reached, move onto “Return to baseline phase”. It will take several sessions to reach criteron.

Return to Baseline:

If mastery criteron is reached using the video model, Present the sequence again without the video model reinforcement will be delivered for the independent completion of the entire chain.

Additional notes:

1. Correct steps are labeled on the data sheet with an (I) for Independence, and
2. Any variation from these steps should be scored as a (P) on the data sheet for those individual steps.
Successful Implementation:

These graphs represent when the simple reversal demonstrates that the student was able to fold an article of clothing after watching the VM clip:

These graphs shows 2 of many problems when using VM:

— If skill decreases, re-introduce video model until mastery is reached again.
— During maintenance, reduce the frequency of implementation using the standards Maintenance format, 2-3x per week, 1 per week and so on.
— Move to more restrictive prompts then re-fade.

— Ensure that your reinforcers are motivating in that moment, switch to another identified highly preferred item
— Ensure that reinforcement occurs after all the steps in the task analysis are completed independently, and not for individual steps
— Consider a highly-preferred video after completion of the video model (R+)
— If reinforcers are effective, and problems occur, return to work on the pre-requisite attending skills.

Final Summary:

There are so many ways to determine the effectiveness of VMs. It’s important for us to continue to evaluate different procedures for implementation across many types of skills beyond simple folding clothes. The above example of folding pants and shirts is a simple demonstration of how the use of VM can increase steps in the task analysis. It’s does not determine which procedure is better, and doesn’t account for all the variable which you may encounter, only a few of them. It’s also important to revisit this procedure to ensure experimental control if a research project is what you are looking for.
Charlop-Christy, M.H., Le, L., & Freeman, K.A. (2000). A Comparison of Video Modeling with In Vivo Modeling for Teaching Children with Autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders: Volume 30, Issue No. 6, pp. 537-552.
Hine, J.F. & Wolery, M. (2006). Using Point-of-View Video Modeling to Teach Play to Preschoolers with Autism. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education: Volume 26, Issue No. 2, pp. 83–93.
Wert, B. Y., & Neisworth, J. T. (2003). Effects of Video Self-Modeling on Spontaneous Requesting in Children with Autism. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions: Volume 5, Issue No. 1, pp. 30-34.


QSAC is a New York City and Long Island based nonprofit that supports children and adults with autism, together with their families, in achieving greater independence, realizing their future potential, and contributing to their communities in a meaningful way by offering person-centered services.

QSAC pursues this mission through direct services that provide a supportive and individualized setting for children and adults with autism to improve their communication, socialization, academic, and functional skills.