By Marcelle Richardson, MA, CCC-SLP
Lead Speech Language Pathologist, Cajon Valley School District
Last September, we received two FLIP cameras through an NFAR Autism Teachers Grant, which have not only expanded our district’s “video interest group” and helped create a momentum in our department, but have also supported our efforts to provide the “best practice” communication interventions for our autism students.
The cameras have been integral in our weekly theme-based interactive activities, a program called Functional Thematic Language Units or FTLU, designed to increase communication, literacy and social skills. Guided by teachers, our students engage in video-taped questions and answer sessions on various different topics (such as “going to the grocery store” or “getting a haircut”), which can then be replayed to draw attention to the small, positive aspects of fast-paced interactions.
A “real time” conversation flits by at lightening speed and it can be hard to help a child with autism identify the subtle aspects of such exchanges. With video, however, you can review it and analyze it again and again. Time almost stands still as you look at the video segment and talk about the positive things you see.
Positive is the key word, as we celebrate and encourage only the positive aspects of a video. Educators have long agreed that pointing out the positive is a powerful way to encourage more of the same and that becomes much easier with video cameras in our hands. A teacher can now easily use the video as a visual guide, noting, “Look at the way Mario is listening to his friend here. Look at his face. He looks so interested. He is really listening.”
Integrating video has added a real richness to our lessons and introduced another learning modality to our program. Video allows us to showcase our students interacting in a meaningful way and using language that may be new or complex for them. They watch themselves in the video, and appear to have forgotten that adults had anything to do with the production at all. It’s them. It’s their movie. And it all occurs in the rich context of educational play.