This month, I plan to continue to highlight the EBP of ‘modeling’. This is part 3 of a series so feel free to look back at last two months’ articles that help to explain the strategy as there is core information is in those articles as well on modelling. In a nutshell, this is simply intentionally showing a learner what we would like them to know or do in a systematic way. I will be concluding the information on this strategy in this article. As usual, modeling can be used in conjunction with other EBPs that we have highlighted in the past, as one piece of a larger puzzle.
Note: Much of the information in this article is from the related AFIRM online module (link below).
There are three prerequisites before you can decide if modelling would be an appropriate strategy to use with a learner. The learner must be able to:
When the research suggests that the learner has at least some of the skills needed to complete the task, it is saying that the learner needs to have some ability to do some parts. Some parts of the skill may be teachable but having every element as a new skill will not lend itself to successful modelling. For example, if you have the goal of independently making an order at a coffee shop, the learner should know how to use a bank card or tap a credit card and be able to engage somewhat with a stranger. Some of the skills can be taught beforehand. A script of the whole exchange/order can be used to bridge nerves or issues with speaking to a stranger to help overcome this issue. The learner would watch the person modelling from start to finish and then try pieces or the whole thing on their own. This will let them know what it should look like in general which makes tasks, especially new ones, less stressful.
The third point of having enough attention span to watch the modelling being done is also important. If the learner only has a few seconds of attention span (for whatever reason), the strategy of modelling would not be appropriate unless the task was only a few seconds long. Try to make the showing of the skill as short, simple and concise as possible as sustained attention is key for this strategy to be successful. This can vary greatly from learner to learner. When ADHD/ADD is a comorbid diagnosis, this aspect can be more challenging. If it is possible, but there needs to be extra or external reinforcers to ensure they are watching the model, do not be afraid to offer that to get a bit more buy in in the actual observation. For example, if sustained attention is a major issue, but the learner may watch for 1 minute versus a typical ten seconds with a promise of a reinforcement, go for it. If a piece of gum will get them observe the model longer, great!
Lastly, use modeling as a ‘primer’ or as a ‘prompt’. That simply means to use it at the very beginning of a new skill (primer) to show the learner what the final outcome is to look/sound like or use modelling in the middle of teaching the still if they have forgotten all or part of the skill. For example, you want the learner to learn to remember to lock up at night, show them all the parts of that (lock doors, ensure stove is off, turn off lights, turn down heat, etc.) at the beginning of the learning process. They simply observe. (Make a checklist if needed – visuals prompt). When you use modelling as a prompt, the learner usually can do it independently or can do most of it independently after being taught/practiced, but for some reason forgets how or a portion. You can use modelling as a way to support the process again. If they learner remembers to do all the night lock up items but forgets the door locking, one can model that part for them again if needed.
This wraps up my mini-series on modelling. I hope that you have found it helpful and has helped to add one more evidence based practice into your toolkit of positively supporting someone with autism. Honestly though, this strategy really fits into that mantra of ‘good for all, critical for some’. The popularity of ‘how to’ you tube videos lends itself to the effectiveness as well. Video modelling is actually counted as a separate EBP but is definitely related. It is very helpful to learners with any sort of language delay as there is more to watch than to listen to or understand/process at one time.
If you are interested in checking out the free online AFIRM modules, here is the link (will take you to the social narrative module in particular as I am highlighting this here).
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Carmen has been published in a variety of online and print articles. Writing is a passion and she strives to grow and share her message.