Nearly 133 million Americans live with chronic illnesses and conditions such as autism, arthritis, lupus, and diabetes. Their numerous symptoms are always not visible to the naked eye. In addition, family, friends, and even co-workers still find it hard to recognize any sense of loss, isolation and loneliness. Despite these difficulties, all patients must strive to overcome these hurdles, as experts agree that people living with chronic illnesses can live full and meaningful lives regardless of their conditions.
The biological and communication/cognitive features of Autism are often attributed to as the major reason to explain how children with Autism may fail to typical social awareness, knowledge, abilities, and skills at the appropriate stage or age. Research shows that parents of disabled parents are more vulnerable to stress. High levels of distress have been found in upto70% of mothers and 40% of fathers of children with severe disability (American Psychological Association, 2012). Literature from the general psychology and specific studies on children with disability indicates that family functioning and parental distress affects children in several ways, affecting behavioral, cognitive and social development. Even though there exist many developmental disorders that present parents with ongoing grief, autism is distinctive in several ways. To start with, this disorder has no biological indicator unlike other developmental disabilities including deafness, mental retardation, aphasia and blindness. Owing to lack of definitive test, diagnosis and prognosis of Autism is often marked with uncertainty.
Impairments in the communication and social domain, as well as involvement in repetitive, restrictive, and stereotypic contribute to restricting independent performance among autistic children. Past research has documented deficits in areas of imitation and joint attention which may hinder an individual’s ability to watch others in an attempt to learn skills to facilitate independence (Barlow & Durand, 2008). One of the interventions that encourage independence is self-monitoring. Self-monitoring intervention involves teaching an individual to discriminate and to make a record of nonoccurrence and occurrence behavior (American Psychological Association, 2012), thereby increasing independence since the individual becomes the agent of the intervention. Self-monitoring interventions can be used in order to reduce incidence of problem behaviors and increase desired behavior.
Video modeling is another intervention that can be used to enhance independence. Video modeling involves teaching skills using minimal adult interaction and prompt. Studies indicate that many people with ASD are better able to process and remember visual information as compared to verbal presentation (Barlow & Durand, 2008).
As a result, visual strategies are more often used to help individuals with ASD to make better sense of their environment (American Psychological Association, 2012). According to (Bellini, & Akullian, 2007), some examples of visual supports include task organizers, schedules, classroom management aids, and choice boards (American Psychological Association, 2012).
The factors that may act as restraining forces to intervention programs include deficit in areas of joint imitation and attention. According to (Bellini, & Akullian, 2007), lack of joint attention and imitation may limit the ability of an individual to watch others in an effort to learn necessary skills for independent functioning. Limited or delayed communication and social interest may also reduce overall ability for skill demonstration thereby increasing the need for adult support and prompting (Barlow & Durand, 2008). Once this intense level of support is guaranteed, it may become difficult to fade support over time due to resistance to change, consequently restraining facilitation of independent functioning.
Self-monitoring helps in increasing independence because the individual becomes part of the change process. Self-monitoring requires paying attention to salient behaviors and the conditions under which they occur. This intervention helps in enhancing positive behaviors while eliminating negative behaviors. Video modeling as an intervention method employs teaching skills with minimal adult interaction and prompts. The skill learnt by the person is chosen by the interventionist and learned through modeling. With the use of video models, an individual is able to watch himself or someone performing a skill independently more often in order to learn the skill. Due to the level of involvement in video-modeling, participants get an effective means of learning socio-communication skill and adaptive behavior, in addition to reducing problem behavior. This helps in enhancing independence among individuals with autism who may develop new skills of performing some functions independently.
The best ways of working with children with autism are both proactive and positive and focus on enhancing independent functioning (Barlow & Durand, 2008). With the increasing number of people diagnosed with ASD, and as population ages, there is increasing need for interventions promoting independence response which in turn reduces the need for support from others. While many interventions exist, only few take into account the development of independent functioning.
American Psychological Association. (2012). Autism. http://www.apa.org/topics/autism/index.aspx
Barlow, D.H., & Durand, M.V. (2008). Abnormal psychology: an integrative approach. 5th ed. Connecticut: Cengage Learning.
Bellini, S., & Akullian, J. (2007). A meta-analysis of video modeling and video self-modeling interventions for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Exceptional Children, 23 (73), 264–287.