So often we spend a great deal of time and energy creating the visual schedules and behavior reinforcement charts, ruining scissors and fingernails with the Velcro and interfering with quality family time to get the icons just right. Then we present the visual chart to the student with tons of verbal language, showing off our skills at pulling the Velcro off and putting it in the appropriate place. At this moment, I’ve had a student say to me, “Good job, Teacher.” Then I realized that although these visual schedules and behavior contracts are beneficial and essential to our visual learners, so often we present them verbally, and the student doesn’t quite understand how the pretty new chart relates to them personally. The charts become the teacher’s plans, not the student’s plans. There’s no student buy in, and sooner or later, the chart goes on the pile of things that never quite worked.
Video Stories are an easy, effective way of involving the student in their own schedule or behavior plan. The student can simply act out for the camera each step of the schedule or behavior plan, showing off their own skills, and experiencing the reward and reinforcement of a job well done, whether that is an intrinsic or extrinsic reward or the thrill of seeing themselves successful in the Video Story.
For Erik, the runner who hadn’t wanted to come inside the school before, the Video Story was the magic in the moment to teach him how to follow directions, do work, and earn free time. He was the star of the show, and the show ran smoothly. The Video Story created powerful visual memories of himself working at each task and putting on his tokens, earning his dollar toy, and enjoying his free time activity. The plan became his own plan, that he felt comfortable and successful with. The video camera was also essential for helping us teach him how to go to various places throughout the day. We incorporated his love of Thomas the Train and the theme of the train schedule into the Video Story. He took his clock and his Thomas to the various places he needed to go, the library, the reading room, the math table, the cafeteria, the bathroom, the gym, etc…
We also made a specific Video Story about saying “OK” to the teachers. Previously, he had habitually said “No!” to whatever the request or question. He had never said, “OK” and followed directions; it just wasn’t part of his repertoire. We created a story with him and some of his buddies saying “OK” to the teacher and each other. The kids added in their cute personalities and said “OK” with a goofy little sing-song voice. After watching the Video Story a few times, he learned to say, “OK” which is a very important social, emotional, and behavioral skill. It was actually pretty comical to us, because when we would say “Time to get back to work,” he would say, “OK” and then get a weird look on his face, like “Why in the heck did I just say OK to that lady? I don’t want to go to work! But I said OK!?!” He would follow through because it was a visual memory and because he was learning through this whole process that saying OK and following directions could be rewarding for him.