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Teaching Problem-Solving Skill


Article: Improving Problem-Solving Performance of Students with ASDs. By Yakubova and Taber-Doughty. In Focus on Autism and Other Dev. Disabilities, v. 32, n. 1, 2017.

Researchers used video modeling (there it is again) to teach 4 young adults/late teens on the Spectrum the act of problem solving in a vocational setting. They used point of view videos (not sure exactly what that is, but I have an idea) and found that all 4 subjects learned to problem solve, all of them were able to generalize the skill (i.e., use problem solving in a context where it was not trained), and most showed similar functioning when retested 6 weeks later.

It looks like the 4 young people they worked with represented a relatively large range of functioning within the ASD population. I find it interesting that this intervention was useful for all of them, and then again, why would it not be? In fact, I think video modeling would probably improve the problem-solving skill of everyone who used it, even people not on the Spectrum. In general, video modeling is an easy thing to do (what with today's technology) and it seems to work with a huge range of populations (including "non-disabled"), so why not use it all over the place? Is video modeling hurting anyone? Unlikely. My conclusion: use it.

I like to see outcomes that suggest individuals with ASD can generalize information. This is another aspect of executive functioning deficit that has been really tough for parents and teachers alike-the idea that I can teach a skill in my office and there can be no evidence of generalization to another environment (like the classroom or at home eating dinner). What this research suggests to me is there might be something I can do to promote generalization. Now I need to investigate this a little more.

The lingering questions remain about "spontaneity" and flexibility of the problem-solving activity. The researchers suggest that the more detailed the "alternative solutions" section of the problem-solving activity, the more likely the person is to respond in an independent (without supervisor help) and effective way. That sounds to me like flexibility. Regarding spontaneity, it seems like all 4 subjects had some reliance on being prompted to use problem-solving in some situations. Perhaps I am reading this wrong, but this is the problem that Byron Rourke pointed out all those years ago-people with non-verbal learning disabilities (including Autism) can achieve very high levels of mastery in many skill areas traditionally thought of as deficits, but spontaneous use of these skills is often lacking. For now I normalize the need to prompt use of skills with parents and teachers, but I will continue to look for a solution to this seeming lack of spontaneity.


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