How to Use GIFs to Enhance Spontaneous Communication?

Here's a summary of steps on how GIFs can be used to enhance motivation to communicate :

1.    Select GIFs that are motivating to the child.

For example, favorite pictures, toys/objects/activities that the child likes. A couple of issues to consider:
*    Does the child like moving objects ? If yes, then use animated GIFs
*    Does the child like certain objects ? If yes then use, then use GIFs
*    Does the child like sound that accompanies the pictures ? If yes, then use sound files that come along with it.

There is a library of GIFs for kids but if they are not suitable, feel free to explore these sites or other sites on the web.

If you would like to create your own web page and personalise GIF graphics, please feel free to browse the web sites chosen by my colleagues as exemplary sites for tutorials on creating web pages.

2.     Select educational goals that are a) age appropriate, based on competencies of the child, i.e., what the child could do at his/her developmental level  & b) functional . This should enable the child to gain or facilitate access to social or material reinforcers or be of use in the environment. This will help promote generalization (i.e., behavior is used across different context, with different individuals) and maintenance of learnt behaviors.

3.    If the educational goal is to teach communication, then one could use a time delay procedure to enhance spontaneity in communication. Research on time delay has been shown to be effective in enhancing spontaneity in children with minimal communicative abilities (Charlop, Schreibman & Thibodeau, 1985; Halle, Marshall & Spradlin, 1979).

4. Procedures:

Example: Teaching the child to spontaneously vocalise  for "train" to request for a picture of a moving train.

a.    Show the child a picture of the moving train (you can adjust the computer screen to show one, two or three moving trains)

b.    Minimize the screen such that the picture of the train by clicking on the _ icon on the top right hand corner of the screen

c.    Put your finger on the mouse to get ready to maximize the screen IMMEDIATELY when the child vocalizes "train". Note : Communicative method varies depending on the child's competence. Non verbal individuals could use either handsign, picture card communication or pointing to card with the word "TRAIN" on it.

d.    WAIT for 10 seconds the child to respond. This waiting period could vary depending on the teacher and the child communicating.

e.     OBSERVE any attempts to communicate, i.e., movement of lips, utterances, other non-verbal behaviors.

f.    When the child provides a correct response, praise the child.

g.     IMMEDIATELY maximise the screen so the child could make the association between his vocalizations and the picture. Over time, he will form an association between his attempt to vocalize and obtaining the desired object. This not only could help in motivating the child further but would go a long way in helping the child understand cause and effect relationships.

h.    If the child does not provide the appropriate response but approximates "Train" with his vocalizations, verbally prompt "Train".

i.     Wait for the child to model your response.

j.    If the child models it correctly, then IMMEDIATELY show him the picture of a train on the screen.

k.    To enable spontaneity, one could consider varying the extending the waiting period for the child to respond.

l.    Over time, the child should be able to spontaneously vocalize train WITHOUT prompts or assistance from the listener.

m.    Once the child has acquired the label, the listener should attempt to generalize this newly acquired label. Point out to the child that "train" does not only refers to the picture on the computer screen but also those in books (in the form of a drawing/pictures) and those that move on the railway track.

Click here for more teaching tips for children and adults with autism written by one who is/was an autistic and is now a professor !!

There are many ways of helping the child learn to communicate his needs. This is but only ONE of the many ways. Good Luck on Your Teaching Endeavour !

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Adrian John Kok
School of Social Work
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
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