There are many requests or instructions that we give to our children that we automatically expect them to understand. However, we know that children with Autism are visual learners, and often do not process the auditory instructions we give them. We can use alternative communication systems to support understanding such as Makaton signing or Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS), which gives them an additional cue. However, this does not necessarily show them what certain behaviours or responses should look like ie what does good sitting look like? We can sign it to reinforce the command but it does not help them to understand what good sitting actually looks like. Stemming from the work we have done with an experienced ABA therapist, the Communication, Language Intervention team (CLI), and our Speech and Language therapists, we have developed a range of clips for pupils at Oaklands to support them with their understanding of simple, key instructions. A good example of its impact has been the ‘Good Sitting’ clip which has been used across classes and in assemblies. Pupils of all abilities from around the school are now able to identify what good sitting looks like, mirroring the actions ‘hands on lap’ and ‘feet on floor’ and often imitating the associated language. This has had a positive impact, enabling pupils to be focused and ready for further learning. This clip is on the website as an example, but also a resource that can be used at home, to encourage your child to watch and sit, perhaps for example, before eating breakfast.
We know from research that children also have difficulties with generalising and understanding emotions. These can also be addressed through movie modelling ie different examples of what happy/sad/angry looks like, to try to support children to understand and read people’s faces, or examples of familiar men/women from school, with associated signing to support children with their understanding of prepositions (we know that the use of ‘he’/’she’ is particularly difficult for our children).
We can also use movie modelling to enhance core skills in movement sessions. We know from EYFS and theoretical research that Physical Development is fundamental to early stages of learning. There are key skills that children must acquire in order to progress. We have therefore developed our own bank of Movie Modelling Clip to accompany Big Moves!; a programme of fundamental movement skills.
We know that many of our children are motivated by technology and watching screens. There are some excellent resources on the internet for teaching children with Autism and/SEND. We know that our children respond particularly well to ‘Mr Tumble’/’Something Special’ and to ‘Singing Hands’. However, they are often part of a programme and cannot be used as a bespoke resource. By producing our own short movie clips we can teach specific behaviours for learning, or key skills which we as a school feel are key to our children’s development.
We can use movie modelling as a classroom support. The clips can help to engage pupils’ interest and aid their understanding of our expectations. During most teaching sessions where tasks are introduced to children and explained, as a staff we currently model language, signing and actions. Our children are encouraged by this visual example and often copy. Some of the initial skills we teach children are simple actions such as clapping and stamping, and we seek different ways to engage and motivate children to copy or join in. Many of our children find attention difficult, and children with Autism may also avoid interacting with adults due to their diagnosis including difficulties with Social Interaction, therefore this different visual stimuli offers us an alternative (not as a replacement for Social Interaction but as a stimulus for learning and in addition to teaching social interaction skills). Another successful example has been when teaching Number. A movie model of three fingers appearing on the screen, accompanied by the simple instruction of an adult saying ‘Show me three’, encourages the child to look and imitate the action, in addition to the real-life adult in the room showing the action. Often, pupils have watched, required time to process and respond, but then copied the action and for some, they have copied the word. This has often worked where other methods of teaching a response has not.
Please watch these very short clips to see the types of instructions that we would use to help children understand very simple instructions. This will help them to develop their independence. You could play them when you want your child to carry out one of these simple tasks to show them what it looks like i.e. taking their coat off. The movie clip will also help them to understand what you want them to do. Perhaps play it on an iPad, and then you say the instruction using the same words. The visual instructions will support them to understand what your words mean. If you use the same language each time you say the instruction, it will soon become clear.
We would love to know how you get on.