Incorporating YouTube With Autism Instruction

Over the past fifty years we have witnessed the development of technology. Today, we are in the era of understanding its educational implications. Technology is not only capable of communicating concepts. It enable children to overcome barriers that prevent them from understanding the world and exercising control over it.

Instead of being passive recipients of instruction, children who understand what technology can do and learn how to use it as a tool will become active participants in their own education. While simple devices that augment communication enable children to make their needs known and indicate choice, interactive technology enhances the sense of self and opens up a world of opportunity that children can explore independently.

Children must be helped to understand and then to master technology. Parents can aid in this process by serving to guide, then tutor and finally mentor children as they slowly master the tools.

The easiest place for a parent to start the process is by using video to engage attention. For years, I would videotape my students engaging in special activities such as school trips as well as mundane activities such as class lessons. Watching our videos together stimulated lots of interest, fun and discussion. But “home” videos weren’t suitable for teaching new material. So I collected Youtube videos that focused on discrete steps in complex skills such as personal hygiene. Searching for proper clips was tedious but the results were well-worth the effort.

I introduced tooth brushing with a clip that captured student attention. I would show the clip to the class while monitoring their response. Some children were hooked immediately. Pre-verbal students would indicate they wanted to see it again. Regardless of student “level”, showing this brief clip was enough to get students to consider me to be the agent controlling something they liked. My hope was to get them to understand that they could acquire the knowledge and power to control the technology themselves.

I added clips focusing on the steps in the complex skill: the proper way to brush, how to rinse and the importance of brushing. Next, I compiled a folder containing clips related to sneezing: a woman sneezing for a full minute, clips on germ transmission, hand washing and a humorous clip from an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. At first, selecting clips was a hit-or-miss proposition that was not always successful. Some were box office flops. I began to see that children responded differently and to different aspects of the experience. Some were attracted by the sound. Others were indifferent to sound. Some were drawn by motion. Others by content. But I was beginning to discriminate individual learning preferences, rates of learning and to better understand the nature and degree of prompting each child required to progress. I got better at the selection process.

Regardless of whether your child has any computer skills or not, viewing Youtube videos together is a great opportunity for bonding, social interaction, stimulating language and sharing a FUN experience. When you are ready to give it a whirl, choose a simple task you want to teach. Then research clips that you feel would appeal to your child. Watch your child closely for signs of interest.

It’s not difficult to find gems like this

Introducing a new skill. This clip incorporates all the elements needed to capture your child’s attention to prepare him to learn: Animation, humor, music, and modeling of the skill in question

The power of the moving image. The teacher models a skill for the class.. A clip of their reaction is shown to Joseph, a pre-verbal 17 year-old who previously had shown no interest in the computer. Joseph was so motivated that he learned how to use the mouse to replay the video for himself. This is the first step in enabling a child to demonstrate volition and direct his own education.

View additional sample clips

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