Lights, Camera, Analyze: Slowing Down Social Experiences Through Video Feedback


blog-video modeling

I often find myself pulling out the iPad during sessions. Not for the purpose of playing games or using therapeutic apps, but simply to use the video camera. Video feedback effectively captures the attention of and reinforces a desired behavior with so many of my little friends. The immense benefits to increasing a client’s ability to self-monitor any area of development include attention, emotional regulation, behavior, articulation and interactions with others. Implications for video feedback are endless.

In my experience, video feedback works particularly well in addressing pragmatic language. Teaching social skills in a natural context is challenging because real-life experiences happen so quickly! Video feedback allows us to slow down the interaction, press pause and repeatedly review the clip to teach different aspects of the interaction, such as:

  • Situational awareness
    • Assessing hidden social rules
    • Following the group plan
    • Behavioral expectations
  • Conversation skills
    • Topic selection
    • Maintaining topic
    • Asking questions
    • Listening skills
    • Turn-taking
    • Nonverbal communication
  • Cooperative interaction
    • Understanding others’ perspectives
    • Solving problems
    • Compromising
    • Negotiating

Positive reinforcement continually gets the best results for me in changing a behavior. So when reviewing a video with a client, I focus on what the child did well and what he or she should do more often. Positively reinforcing social skills can instill a greater sense of confidence and increase a child’s motivation for building up an area he or she recognizes as challenging.

Read more about video modeling and specific ways to use it.

Occasionally take the spotlight off of the child by letting him assess the social behaviors of the group. Kids love when they get a turn being the “teacher.” Make it more fun by pointing out silly or unexpected behaviors by the clinician, parent or teacher in the clip. For the social skill being targeted, ask your clients to think through what they might do differently in a similar interaction.

Follow up with role playing the desired social behavior. Then let the child watch himself on video to reinforce the positive skill.

Why use video feedback?

  • It’s quick and easy! A device with a video camera is usually within arm’s reach. It’s easy to take a video of your client and it’s quick to show it back to them as frequently as needed.
  • You can do it during any activity. Need to push into the classroom? Perfect! During recess, playing a game, reading, free play with peers or circle time. Any time, any place and any activity can be a great opportunity to use video feedback.
  • It’s fun! Most kids LOVE watching themselves on video. Capturing a child’s full engagement makes this learning opportunity extra effective.
  • It’s real life. These video clips capture natural moments, which helps clients generalize skills. They think through expectations and nuances of different social experiences rather than memorizing scripted responses or rote behaviors.
  • It’s practical for parents. This strategy provides parents with an opportunity to teach the expectations for any real-world experience. To prepare their child for a successful experience, suggest they save and review videos prior to returning to a repeated event or activity like a church service, baseball game or birthday party.


Jessica Drake-Simmons, MS, CCC-SLP, works at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley on its social media and blog, helping educate families and caregivers on practical topics for child development. Follow the blog or check out the Pinterest page.

Treating Autism With Marijuana—Good or Bad?


An article posted today on Forbes offers anecdotal and scientific—what little exists—pros and cons of using marijuana to treat people with autism as well as schizophrenia.

The lack of scientific research might change thanks to the Obama administration’s removal of bureaucratic hoops in studying various chemical found in the plant. In addition, the proposed CARERS Act promoting new applications of medical marijuana enjoys bipartisan support. As noted in the piece, numerous chemicals exist within a marijuana plant, so one could potentially be helpful while another harmful. One example says that heart patients don’t take foxglove, they take digoxin–a chemical found in the foxglove plant.

The article also shares personal success stories and grassroots organizations convinced of the drug’s benefits in treating autism.

Summer Postcards for Social and Language Skills


As the school year winds down, parents often ask me for easy summer activities to support goals we’ve been addressing all year. Some of my favorite tips involve postcards.

Dear Me

Writing a daily postcard each night of vacation builds sequencing skills (or grammar or vocab or any expressive language skill). I ask families to come up with three to four activities they did that day or three to four elements from a big event. Parents may take (verbatim) dictation, but I always ask that the child sign off. I often suggest doing this in a restaurant while waiting for food to arrive, because family meals are a typical time to discuss what happened that day.

If it’s feasible, I ask parents to mail the postcard home each day. If not, they act as postmaster once home by mailing one a day.

This mail generates a lot of post-vacation excitement. The little one gets mail several days in a row and hears or reads activity sequences again. Kiddos love stories they star in! They are also a great keepsake and less arduous than keeping a travel journal.

I ask parents to bring the postcards in for a couple of sessions once school starts again. They give me and my students something tangible to review and I have a reference point for topics and questioning. They also provide a great starting point for class projects on “what I did on my summer vacation.” Our students appreciate the memory boost for generating detailed, sequential information about events that happened several weeks earlier.

Goal Nudging

I also use postcards to push goals along during the break from our sessions, which is especially important for fluency students.

My student and I come up with five to seven summer goals (with a variety of difficulty). Each goal gets written individually on a postcard (hometown or generic), stamped and addressed to me. As the student completes the goal, they simply sign their name and drop it in the mail. I encourage a sentence or two of feedback, particularly from older students, but I don’t insist. If I don’t receive a postcard within the first month or so of summer break, I send a postcard reminder of my own!

I use these activities with K-12 students, but I think they would adapt easily to adult populations as well.

Kimberly Swon Lewis, ME, CCC-SLP, is a pediatric speech-language pathologist in Greensboro, North Carolina, and the author of the blog.



Am I an SLP With a Social Communication Problem?



Have you ever pondered your social relevance, like an iPhone 5 right after the iPhone 6 comes out? Sure, you still look pretty good and have barely been used, so why is everyone already lining up to trade you in for a newer model? As a 28-year-old SLP working with junior high kids, I think about this a lot. I’m not that old and, therefore, relatively “cool” and in tune with what kids like … right?

The other day, during one of my many social skills groups, it hit me. I just might be an SLP with a social communication problem. My second realization was that I hadn’t been using the same advice I give my students. Like a broken record, I instruct my students on the rules of making and keeping friends. Week after week I serve up the same social strategies, such as find common topics of interest, initiate small talk and add relevant information.

However, the awkward social elephant in the room was me! I knew relatively little about the topics my students enjoyed.

Kids communicate in ways that we, as SLPs, and most adults don’t even understand. Surely it’s not for us to keep up with the five-second attention spans of adolescents and their never-ending pop culture nonsense. But, on the other hand, how can we teach social communication skills if we don’t know how kids are communicating or what’s important to them?

If a student asks me for help on inviting other kids over for a party, I advise to shoot a quick text. Email is considered far too formal and they’d laugh at the idea of a thoughtful handwritten note on engraved cardstock. So I do need to keep up with the times. I help kids talk and socialize for a living. But I need to do that using things from their world, not mine. Also, many of my students already struggle to know what’s socially important or appropriate, so it’s up to me to fill in the blanks.

I had some homework to do. That evening, I spent a hot second on Google and ended up learning way more about One Direction, Ariana Grande and CW series than I ever cared to. Talk about an unnecessary wake-up call!

As an SLP, however, I use the socially relevant information to relate to my students. The difference between good and great treatment comes down to preparation and knowledge. The more I learned, the better my sessions and conversations with my kids became. It will for you as well.

On a side note, did you know that there’s a Wikipedia knockoff site called Wookieepedia? As the name might imply, the information covers all things Star Wars. Trust me, your kids with autism spectrum disorder sure know about it.

Since making it a priority to spend a few minutes here and there searching celebrity gossip or other trends, my social groups changed for the better. My kids find it incredibly cool that I actively participate in conversations about the newest apps, superhero movies and hot video games.

I’m not suggesting anyone run out to buy the newest gaming system. I’m just saying that as we teach students to communicate in the world, let’s participate in the conversation ourselves.

#foodforthought #pragmatics #speechtherapy


Ken Anderson, MS, CCC-SLP, is a school-based SLP in Los Angeles. Follow him on Instagram @slpken or email

10 Low-Cost, Low-Tech Tools for SLPs Treating Teens and Adults


With summer—and client travel—around the corner, I’m sharing ideas for non-electronic treatment activities that are low-cost, portable and ideal for adults with developmental disabilities. Use these activities in the treatment room and for families who want to work on speech, language and communication goals between sessions. Encourage clients to take these materials along during summer travel, on the beach or on a short trip in the community.

Whenever I work with older teenagers and adults with developmental disabilities, I focus on finding age-appropriate activities. An older client might feel disempowered by a childlike activity.

Most people also already own these materials!

  1. Newspapers. A newspaper—which may cost less than $5, depending on the paper—serves as a multipurpose treatment tool. Even better—some papers are free! Target literacy, answering and asking questions about current events, searching for a movie time and location, and social skills or abstract language in the comics section. Check out how to use comics to meet speech and language goals.
  2. Magazines. I love using magazines as a treatment tool with adults. Age-appropriate and interesting, magazines contain a variety of articles, pictures, advertisements and more. Also, the magazines your clients choose may give you insights into their interests and motivations. I recently asked one of my clients to choose a magazine at the local convenience store. I expected him to choose a food or car magazine, but he gleefully went straight for the gossip rag. We had a productive session afterward discussing various sections in the magazine via his communication device.
  3. Grocery circulars. Use free circulars to learn money management, categories (such as food groups) and new food vocabulary. Other goals include facilitating commenting and describing. Circulars also act as conversation starters: “What would you buy at the grocery store?” “I want to make steak and eggs for breakfast. What do I need to buy?”
  4. Brochures/catalogs. Brochures and catalogs—another free option—motivate and engage clients depending on their interests. If your client likes electronics, bring an electronics catalog, for example. Discuss prices, various types of equipment and what they like versus dislike. The same approach works for clothing, gardening or home décor catalogs.
  5. Subway/bus maps. Also free and functional! Work on travel training, literacy and map reading with these resources. Language concepts include problem-solving, sequencing and answering “wh” questions.
  6. Menus. I’m sticking with the free theme, here! And what’s more functional than being able to read a menu and make a choice? Check out my previous article on using menus as a treatment tool.
  7. Employment applications. Stop into any fast-food establishment, restaurant, movie theater or retail store and ask for an application. Filling out an application facilitates improved literacy, answering “wh” questions, recalling information, expanding vocabulary, and sequencing by writing the order of educational or work history.
  8. Dominoes. A set of dominoes offers an inexpensive, portable, age-appropriate and fun developmental activity for adults. Practice matching, taking turns, solving problems and following directions.
  9. Playing cards. Ideas for card games include Uno, Go Fish and War. Again, thiese low-cost games double as age-appropriate, accessible, portable and functional treatments. Examples of targeted goals include matching, solving problems, taking turns and prediction.
  10. Board games/bingo. How about a game of Sorry or Connect Four? These games are less than $10 each and teach taking turns, learning colors, following directions and solving problems. A generic bingo game or a customized bingo set also works well. If you have clients who need work on specific vocabulary related to actions, send them home with an action bingo board. Instruct them to use it with family or friends to build vocabulary, practice taking turns and forming complete sentences.


Rebecca Eisenberg, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist, author, instructor and parent of two young children. She began her website,, to create a resource for parents to help make mealtime an enriched learning experience. She has worked for many years with children and adults with developmental disabilities in a variety of settings, including schools, day habilitation programs, home care and clinics. Contact her at or follow her on FacebookTwitter or Pinterest.