Whatever It Takes

Some of you may wonder how we are able to get the students to demonstrate new skills that they didn’t have before.  If this is a skill they are lacking, how do we get them to demonstrate the skill?

First of all, I start with one skill at a time.  I think about the most pressing need, whether that’s demonstrating cool hands, or using some form of communication to ask for something that is important to them.  Once I have chosen the skill, I analyze or distill the skill or concept down to it’s simplest steps.  I think about what that skill would look like scene by scene like in a TV show or step by step like in a recipe.  A simple sketch of the story’s outline in a story board format may be a helpful exercise in visualize what steps need to happen in what sequence.  This step is important and takes some actual reflection.  We don’t usually think it this way, so it may seem somewhat backwards to us.  It helps me to visualize slowly, scene by scene, what needs to happen for this skill to “look” right.  In the task analysis, we may notice a few little steps that may be a stumbling block for the student and this can give us some insight into how to help the student learn the skill.  For example, the step of waiting for the right moment to interrupt may be tricky for the student, so we can incorporate a few extra layers of support, which could be a clue for when it’s appropriate to interrupt, a sequence for what to do while they’re waiting, or perhaps a whole different story to teach the concept of waiting.

Sometimes we find that the larger skill has several prerequisite skills involved in it.  In that case, you can either focus on the prerequisite skills first, or work on both at the same time if the larger skill is of urgent importance.  For example, one of my students needed an immediate Video Story about Fire Drills because the fire drill was traumatic for him.  In the fire drill, one of the steps would be walking with the teacher in the hall.  This is a skill he had not quite mastered yet.  So we made two Video Stories simultaneously – one about walking feet and one about fire drills.  He learned it quickly from having such a focused and intense instruction on the steps he needed to be successful in that situation.  The very next fire drill he got through without a problem at all.  And of course the walking feet came in handy in many different situations.

So… if there are perquisite skills or non-mastered skills involved in the larger concept, don’t be discouraged.  That does not necessarily mean that you have to wait to start working on the more advanced concept.  It may be powerful to work on it from both angles simulataneously, especially if it’s a behavior pattern that has been stubborn and resistant to change.

After I distill the concept to its simplest form, and visualize a general idea of how I want the story to befleshed out scene by scene, I bring it to the student to discuss how they want their movie to go.  I like to make a general storyboard sketch with the student.  I want the student to take as much ownership of their Video Story as possible.  Often they have fabulous ideas for what each person would say in that situation, and weave in their own creativity into the story.

I always try to come to the student with enthusiasm and a certain level of optimism, believing that they can do the skill, encouraging them that they are so good at this skill, that I’ve chosen them to be the star of the show playing this lead role, because they are going to shine!  This positive attitude has a lot to do with the success of the movie.  As parents and educators, we need to be our students’ biggest cheerleaders.  I would encourage you to turn the enthusiasm and optimism to full force, even if it feels strange at first.  Our students have been bombarded with so many negative and discouraging messages throughout their lives and experiences that we need to be communicating something dramatically different.  We need to renew our optimism, perhaps even encourage ourselves, so that we can genuinely believe in our child’s potential to learn and grow and relate that excitement to them.  All children have an amazing potential to make sincere, dramatic positive change.  And with Video Stories, we have a powerful tool that can counter the negative messages and ingrained patterns of behavior with an intense visual memory of themselves accomplishing their goal, successfully and independently.   Check out my post entitled “Seeing is Believing” for more on how Video Stories can create a clear positive vision of the student being successful in many different situations.

During the filming of the Video Story, we do whatever it takes as far as prompting to get them to show each step of the skill.  This means the least amount of prompting required for the student to complete the step successfully.  We want to give the student as much independence as possible, so we wouldn’t want to add extra layers of prompting that were unnecessary.  We will be editing out all the prompts, so we want to make sure that the prompts we do provide are essential and are off camera.  We may have picture prompts of each step.  Remember that written words are visual too.  So writing down the script can be a great way to help the student remember the words to say.  (I usually would have the script written in words or simple picture sketches on a small white board that would be held off camera just behind the listener’s head, so while the speaker is glancing at the lines, it still seems like he is looking at the right person.)  We may also have a slight physical prompt that is off camera, such as a gentle touch guiding the person’s elbow to touch the right button, while only the arm below the elbow is included in the shot.  Or we may simply provide a verbal prompt and edit out our voice from the Video Story.

Some educators have even used a “stunt double” to help students learn a skill to which they are very resistant.  One student who was unwilling to try new foods.  He would tolerate the food on his lips, but resist the food in his mouth. So the teachers created a video story where there were a variety of foods to choose from, the student “chose” a new kind of food like strawberries by pointing to a picture.  They prompted him to say strawberries outloud, editing their prompt from the actual Video Story, but including his attempt at verbalizing the item.  Then, they put the strawberries to his lips.  They filmed a close up of someone else’s mouth chewing the strawberries and smiling.  Then they filmed the student licking his lips and saying “Yummy.”  Through the process of watching the Video Story, the student became accustomed to the idea of eating strawberries.  In real life, he tried them and enjoyed them.  His willingness to try new foods increased and he was able to expand his repertoire of foods, which of course has made a wonderful impact on his nutrition and quality of life!

As you can see the process of planning, prompting, practicing, performing, and even production of a Video Story are all part of the learning process.  The student can be involved in every step of the production of a Video Story from start to finish.  The preparation of choosing a targeted behavior and analyzing that skill are part of best practices and time well spent because they help you focus, understand and effectively teach the essential steps required to learn the skill quickly and completely.  The planning of the scenes in the story helps the student visualize how each step will look and children learn by seeing. The prompting required to help the student be successful at each step is edited out in the Video Story, so the student is not stuck in the prompting phase indefinitely.  They see themselves performing the skill independently and it becomes a visual memory that they are motivated to initiate the skill on their own.  The student’s actual performance of each step for the Video Story becomes a much-needed practice because children learn by doing.  Then the editing, production, and viewing of the Video Story help the student internalize the skill, because children learn an extraordinary amount from seeing themselves doing something successfully.

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