Reviews: Video Modeling: Visual-Based Strategies Demonstrated to Help People on the Autism Spectrum

I recently read Video Modeling: Visual-Based Strategies to Help People on the Autism Spectrum by Stephen Lockwood, a behavior specialist and special education teacher.  Lockwood has had lots of experience working with individuals on the autism spectrum.

In his book, Lockwood discusses that individuals on the spectrum often face high levels of neophobia: fear or new environments or situations which can lead to meltdowns. He also talks about people on the spectrum who struggle to keep up with their peers.  One such example includes refusing to play with toys or other children, perhaps a sibling or a neighbor down the street.  Locke defines video modeling strategies, which often have a “mind’s eye view” of certain scenario.  In this case, parents would create an example video or two. One video would contain the child’s peers interacting and the second would hold footage of the the toys being played with. Once the video is edited, the child would be placed in a play-friendly environment with the exact same toys and peers. The video would be played repetitively to model the desired behavior in this setting. These video model strategies can be employed until the the child learns how to play and interact with their peers appropriately.

Lockwood teaches his audiences that video modeling can be used in any environment on any type of recording device by parents, teachers, or others in the community. Parents can find videos on Youtube (or make their own) modeling the activity they are trying get their child involved in; for example, celebrating the 4th of July. Recordings of 4th of July celebrations could play repeatedly for weeks prior to the 4th of July celebration. Within the video, they would model appropriate behaviors, eating certain kinds of foods, and learning how to watch fireworks at a public display.

Lockwood also talks about getting people with ASD into the employment world using video modeling strategies. He explains that video modeling can be useful in helping people on the spectrum get out in the work world by showing them videos related to their tasks or on appropriate behaviors in the workplace, such as social skills.

As a reader, I was very impressed with this book as Lockwood was very clear on what video modeling is. Though I am not a behaviorist, I really feel that this book will be helpful for people in the community who look to mentor someone with autism and look to expose them to new things; for example, teaching a child to wash dishes or learn how to take the trash out by watching a video or two until the situation becomes a routine. I feel that these are going to be helpful in taking baby steps to independence while weaning away from Mom or Dad doing everything for them. I really feel this book is going to be helpful is for those who have a difficult time understanding certain written instructions.

When I lived with two roommates at the age of 20,  I had trouble closing the door behind me properly.  Several times, I would get notes that either one found the door wide open.   Due to this happening, one roommate attempted to write down the instructions in closing the door tightly until the lock clicked.  Still, I could not understand what she meant until she was able to demonstrate how to close the door and listen for the click.  I feel feel that video modeling would also be good for things like instructions that one could find critical. Additionally, playing videos would be beneficial to prepare those who have meltdowns in big, scary environments like an airport, where there are lots of surprises and unpredictability.

There are things in this book that behaviorists, teachers, and others in the community should take into account. While this book will be beneficial for visual learners, others on the spectrum will not be visual learners when exposing them to new environment. For the moment, this book looks at teaching simple work skills and only looks at individuals who are high school age. One thing to keep in mind is that these basic skills being taught in work environments could be taught at home using the video modeling before an individual becomes adolescent, perhaps by volunteering at a church or any child-friendly environment.  Yet, I understand where Lockwood is coming from, as these tactics that will help an individual on the spectrum find success in the workforce.

Overall, this is a great book. I greatly look forward to finding better ways to apply this model.

 

A Brunch with Dr. Temple Grandin in Chicago

 

 A thank you note

As a network of Temple’s and an emerging writer, it was an honor to get my first press pass to an event where I would see a woman who I greatly look up to.  Thank you, Brenda and the Aspiritech Team, thank you to my friend who considered inviting me to “Brunch with Temple Grandin.”  Most importantly, thank you, Temple. Your hard work is very inspiring and I have learned a lot from you  between your talks, books, and emails.

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Temple and I before her talk
Sincerely,

-Miyah Sundermeyer

 

In June, I had the privilege of traveling from Atlanta to Chicago, IL., after being invited to a special brunch which held a talk by Dr. Temple Grandin.

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Me in Chicago at the L
The event was held to raise money for a non-profit organization known as Aspiritech which is housed in the greater Chicago area.

This program was founded by Brenda Weitzberg and her husband Moshe after observing their son, who was diagnosed with autism, being placed in three non-challenging positions which he struggled to keep post attending a 4-year institution of higher learning.  After doing research and finding out about an organization in Europe that hired autistics who are skilled and qualified in technology,  Weizberg elected to do something similar in Chicago.      Unlike most supported employment programs, which offer menial types of work where an autistic is kept down, Aspiritech helps their clients push the envelope by developing work skills in testing important software.  Such positions include  QA analysts and test engineers.   Each employee has an ASD diagnosis and is entitled to a job coach and other similar support systems such as mentors.    All the while supervisors and other leaders hold events for clients at Aspiritech which provide events that not provide social interaction but learn important social skills as well.   What is more is that Aspiritech just celebrated their 10-year anniversary of being in operation which served as a great opportunity for Grandin to have brunch and speak next to paying a visit to Aspiritech.

As someone who had been aching to get out of Atlanta as well as expand my blog brand, and grab ideas for autism airport rehearsal tours, what better way to start than starting with this event?   Once things were squared away, off I went to Chicago after a grueling 24 hours of flight delays and one cancellation, less than 48 prior to attending the event.  Still, I had time to settle into Chicago and do some sightseeing the day before by visiting the Adler Planetarium and seeing the Windy Kitty Cat’s Cafe with my friend

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My friend and Dr. Grandin at the book signing
The event began on the 2nd full day of summer on June 22,2018 with an unusual cold front bringing in several deluges of rain that felt like ice. Regardless, I was able to take the L-from my hostel in the Lincoln Park area to Linden, IL where I caught the bus the Glen Club which once was used as an old military bunker that was converted into a country club with a golf course.   Once inside, introduced myself to Brenda Weitzberg who I had exchanged emails with a few times about attending the event in order to take notes and write about it.  When Brenda first met me, and I told her who I was, “Miyah,” she replied excitedly.  All the while, I had a chance to get set up, network with other attendees and get settled in for the exciting adventure.

Still, I had been waiting on meeting my friend, who is connections with Weitzberg and Aspiritech, and had sent me a Facebook invitation to the event ” A Special Brunch with Temple Grandin” one month and a half earlier.    Yet, eating brunch with Temple was a more of a figure of speech but I ended up nearly behind her in line at the brunch buffet had it not been for my friend who stood between the two of us.  How did that happen?  I had encouraged my friend to get pictures of her as well as meeting Grandin prior to getting into the buffet line.

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Temple networking during brunvh
  Be that as it may, the staff of Aspiritech pulled Temple away making sure that had to chance to grab her food prior to having a chance to network with the management of Aspiritech.

Miyah brunch
My friend and I had brunch with Temple Grandin- courtesy of Moshe Weitzberg 2018

So politely, she excused her fans by announcing,    “Pardon but they are making me get something to eat,” which was then followed by being in the same line.   However, you are still reading the introductory part of this blog.

 

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As brunch began to wind down, Temple began her talk which began with a pun about how she was not going to use the mouse on the computer available to use for her power point.  “I am not going to use the mouse because I don’t like rodents because they bite,” which was responded by a crowd roaring in laughter.   She proceeded to talk about her adventures at Kennedy Space Center, located in Port Canaveral Florida, which I had visited 12 years before prior to seeing a Saturn V satellite being launched into space.

 

While talking about this, she shared her story about getting the opportunity to see the Space X rocket launch and using the camera of the iPhone 6 which she took multiple photos.  “Click, click, click,” she said before mentioning how wonderful the camera is.   From that, she broke away to talk about Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple and the inventor of the iPhone and how was not a scientist but a calligrapher or rather an artist and how he was saved career-wise.  Further on, she brought up other great examples such as one of my favorite film directors, Steven Spielberg.  While he had poor grades in school due to dyslexia, he had a camera that saved him.

Other things Grandin covered were her career life and how she did not let her autism be primary.  Rather, her career came first and how she often brought copies of her drawings to different plans and feedlots so she could get herself into the back door.    All the while she talked about her early years of employment which started out working as a seamstress at a dress shop, internships and other interests that drew out her passion to work in the cattle industry.   In addition, Grandin stated not to mock careers related to skilled trades and how there is a shortage of people in those fields right now and how this is critical to autistics today who are being babied because too many parents have been taught to rely on the medical model.   She stated that too many autistics are eligible for such jobs but are being coddled by their parents instead.  “I am seeing too many smart geeky kids being coddled by their parents who are stuck in the basement collecting social security playing video games,” she forwardly declared.  To back up her argument, she mentioned that new studies are not suggesting that video games have the same effects of addiction like with drugs.  “I am sure that makes the video game industry really happy.”

Together with her talks about getting young adults into careers, she briefly shared the way visual thinkers and learner see things which are by paying close attention to details.  She did this by showing a picture of cow backing away from a reflection of the sun and seeing how many people in the audience could understand why the cow was not moving forward.  “How many of you think it’s the light?”  Surprisingly, most people in the room did not raise their hands unlike me,  who is a visual thinker who had seen the complete opposite at two other talks where the entire room raised their hands in two separate parts of Georgia which were often followed by a “Good job,” and a crowd finding themselves amused.   This time though she said the lack of responses to understanding was”Terrible,”  while going to onto explain that most audience members have failed that test before.  Diversely, she talked about poor planning these days in buildings.  Say, a few hotels that she stayed at where one had no hot water and the other you had to use portapotties outside.   ” I don’t think people would appreciate luxury apartments with no electricity.”  Lastly, she talked about issues with CRJ aircraft carriers (I flew on one from Atlanta to Chicago and find they are poorly designed in that they are too short) in which the engineering on the doors is so poorly designed that it has to be closed the right way or the flight is canceled.   As a result, she forenamed that she had three flights canceled on her because the crew could not close the door properly.

 

Among other things, she mentioned there was a time in her life where she was afraid to fly which is something that she briefly mentioned to me last November while she was in Atlanta.   Though she didn’t touch on everything and I was able to discover what she did in “The Stories I Tell My Friends,”  she was able to briefly talk about a traumatic experience during her talk.  At the time of talk, she touched on overcoming her fear by making the situation interesting what I later learned more about and now use in our autism airport rehearsal tours.

Finally,  Q&A time brought in several members of the audience who participated and myself included.  One of the things that she put emphasis on that there are two places that she does not want to see autistics.  “In jail or dead,” which she stated right before I had a chance to ask her my questions.   Since there were no microphones, she gently directed me to “Speak up,” to which I responded a little louder.  “How’s this?” I asked.  Grandin came back with,  “So the members of the audience can hear you.”   At that point, I shared my concern about parents and guardians relying too closely on work programs which seem to keep autistics down.  She replied by telling me that these programs seem to be finding positions for high school age students and placing smart adults in jobs that continuously bag groceries. Next, we talked about issues related to getting on social securities.  “Do you know they now have classes on how to get onto social security?”   which I agreed was ridiculous for many different reasons along with acknowledging that parents need to stop holding their child’s hand for every little thing including shopping and cooking.   Conclusively, she answered questions of a client who is currently employed at Aspiritech who was recording the entire presentation and wanted a few tips on how to edit the video.  To my, surprise, Temple had great knowledge and experience on editing videos which I was greatly impressed by being that I edit videos for my vlog series all the time.  So that made me happy because I would have been willing to help him as well.

Post Temple’s talk, attendees lined up to purchase one of two books, “The Autistic Brain” and Grandin’s latest book, “Calling All Minds,” while others brought their own books to the brunch.  Prior to Grandin’s talk and book signing, I bought her latest book.   Post the talk I lined up to get my book signed, get a few pictures and a word in edge-wise.  When purchasing the book, the sellers were putting names into each book while Temple just signed.  Being that I had seen her so many times, I am used to having her ask me who the book was too in which she had always put “To Miyah, ” in each book before to signing her name.  In my mind, no one writes my name my copy of her books except for Temple herself which might seem rigid to some.

Matt, Temple and I
Temple Grandin, My Friend and Myself pose for a picture at the Temple’s book signing

At any rate, my friend and I walked up to the table where she signed a copy of my book.    It was there that I had a chance to tell her that I had gone to the Adler Planetarium before asking her how her flight from Denver was.   Yet, she was quick to tell me that he flew out of New Orleans on Southwest Airlines and that the pilot was terrific.  In between that time, my friend, Temple and I posed for a photo in which the entire group was clad in back and red.  Believe me, I had no idea that either one Temple or my friend would also show up and in black and red.   No, his was something that I didn’t even plan on doing because I didn’t know who would wear what.  Rather, I picked outfit because I felt it looked professional being, minus my pink hair that stuck out.

Following my friend and I sat down because he wanted one more picture standing with Temple once she signed her last book. Ahead, I watched her sign books while giving some great advice to a mother and her adolescent son about getting beyond video games and moving out into the world.  She asked him what he liked besides video games and the answer were dogs.  She told him that the rest of the summer, he was going to spend volunteering at a shelter and walking dogs.  As they walked out together several people mentioned that what she gave them were “Teachable moments” and it would really help him grow. Thereafter,  my friend was able to grab Grandin as she was getting ready to head with Weitzberg to their office which was brief prior to heading back to the bus with my friend.   After that adventure, it was time for me to think about getting ready for my early morning flight back to Atlanta.

It was while I was at this event, not only did I learn a great deal from Temple but I had a chance to learn more about Aspiritech and the amazing people both in leaders and clients.  Among other things, I made some new friends in addition to networks while getting rich notes from Temple’s talk.

 

 

 

 References

Grandin .T.  (2018, June).   Temple Grandin Talk.  Presented at  Brunch with Temple Grandin Aspiritech Fundraiser.  Glenview, IL.

Weitzberg, M. (Photographer).  (2018, June).  Brunchtime. [Photograph].  Glenview, IL.  Aspiritech.