Thursday, August 4, 2011

Study shows video modeling improving work performance for ASD individuals

In the August 2010 issue of Education & Treatment of Children, Allen et al, discuss their study showing a marked improvement in four ASD youths/young adults in the performance of a socially challenging job... walking around in a big costume in a store to generate business. While not the best paying jobs (part time; $12 - $20 an hour) it is worth noting that success in a social occupation like this is remarkable for people on the spectrum. And when I thought about it the costume does lend quite a bit of help in that it takes care of the bright, sunny dispositions needed allowing the person inside to concentrate on movement and body language.

As part of a collaborative project between a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and a local private business, we examined the effects of video modeling to teach vocational skills to four adolescents and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Video modeling was used to teach the participants to wear a WalkAround® mascot and entertain customers in a retail setting. Observations were conducted before and after participants watched a video model of the skills performed in both scripted and naturalistic scenes. All participants learned to use the targeted skills after watching the video model and all reported that they enjoyed the work. Implications and vocational applications are discussed.

This article, in addition to the main thrust of the study, presents a potential form of accommodation you may be able to request in your workplace; namely a video of someone else doing the job effectively.  Since AskJan-- the Department of Labor's Accommodation initiative-- suggests alternative methods of communication and training in their discussion of accommodating Aspergers. It is well worth pulling out this study when working with your employer on your labor situation as it shows verifiable results to the effort. A video program like this is more than simple observation as it will stress retention and provide repeated viewing if lessons are confusing or moving too fast. Additionally it is repeatable with future employees.

So consider this the next time you get a review or are interviewing; it may help both sides.

Allen, Keith D; Wallace, Dustin PView Profile; Renes, Diana; Bowen, Scott L; Burke, Ray V.; Use of Video Modeling to Teach Vocational Skills to Adolescents and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders; Education & Treatment of Children, Aug 2010, pp 339-349


  1. This is a great strategy for unskilled jobs where all that is required is a compliant warm body.

    However, I don't see it being a suitable resource for professional career positions. How exactly does one video the complex balance of awareness, good judgment, and negotiation skills required to excel in these high(er) stress positions?

  2. It would be more difficult but watching both sides of a negotiation and dissect the interactions and have explanations of facial expressions, body language, tone and vocabulary would be rather insightful. I know for me it is hard to understand at time the meaning of the other side's comments in a negotiation because I am caught up with what I interpret the words to mean.