Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How do we teach social skills?

Parents of children on the autism spectrum as well as educators and specialists involved with autism know that one of the most sought after therapy goals is social skills.  Autism is many things to many people but at its core, it is a communication and social disorder.  It impacts a person's awareness of social nuance as well as their ability to interact in socially acceptable and common ways.  Social skills curriculum have proliferated in recent years yet we are often looking for innovative ways to teach social skills.  One of the key tenants of TATTS is to use drone technology to convey those skills to our members.  It works.  Here's a few examples:

TEAMWORK: We emphasize teamwork in all that we do.  Visual queues reinforce supporting each other and team members fly in pairs (operator and visual observer).  One popular approach is to have the TATTS ground crew perform tasks that the drone operator is then in charge of capturing via video.  The operator uses the base station to see what they're capturing.  For example, the TATTS ground crew used their bodies to form the initials of the operator while volunteers hid them under umbrellas.  The "reveal" was often a delight for the drone operator!  Note: turn down your sound as all you'll hear are the props from the drone...


ENGAGEMENT: We use drone technology to engage team members.  Hands on helps many learn.  The technology is very enticing for these tech-savvy kids.   
Team Flying: Operator + Navigator
Maintenance Skills: Batteries, Props, & Visual Inspection

FORESHADOWING & REVIEW: We demonstrate what will happen in the field with the entire group, then we do it, then we circle back and review it again at the end.

TATTS Team Members See Themselves on TV Through the Drone
Practicing Using Goggles to See Through the Drone

VISUAL ORGANIZERS: Research has consistently shown that visual organizers help those on the spectrum understand and process sequences of events and manage time.  We use a variety of visual organizers to convey goals, our roles in the process and promoting positive social interaction.
Visual for Positive Things to Say to our Teammates

REINFORCEMENTS: We use numerous reinforcements to make our point, to keep the team members engaged and to simulate what it really means to be a pilot.  After all, pilots keep a log book to track all of their flights, weather conditions, etc.  Why shouldn't we?
Getting a Mechanics Sticker for Working on the Drone
Drone Operator in Training

PERSPECTIVE TAKING: We give them the opportunity to literally see the world from a different person's perspective.  When asked if the view in the goggles would change if they move their head, many of those involved would say yes. When in reality, it does not.  The view only changes if the drone changes.  We need to put our mind into the drone.

VIDEO MODELING: We take video modeling to a different height - literally.  Video modeling is often used to help illustrate a social skill in very concrete terms (e.g., greeting each other, standing in line, taking turns, etc.).  Research has shown that the videos don't have to be of themselves nor even of someone of the same race or gender in order to be effective.  Those with autism are often visual learners making video modeling very powerful.  We use the video we collect from the drone as a tool to watch the world below us, to evaluate what we see and to ask questions like "What is that person thinking?" or "What are they saying to each other?"
Thought Bubble Over Video

Friday, July 3, 2015

First Outing of 2015 Great Success

The TATTS volunteer team was excited to meet all of the TATTS team members, some of their siblings and their parents/guardians at our first outing for 2015.  We had 18 kids and young adults participating throughout the morning and afternoon sessions.  Thanks to Evangel Life Center for allowing us to utilize your gym to fly the mini and micro drones.  An indoor event was perfect to get us started especially given the rain that came down!

We began with a review of our goals and then did an ice breaker where the kids were asked to interview a team mate.  Sample questions were provided and volunteers helped facilitate.

Orientation - Review of Goals

Kids interviewing each other - practicing social skills
From there TATTS team members broke into 3 stations; a flight simulator station, a drone orientation station and a flying station in the gym.  When asked at the end what they liked best, TATTS team members self-reported that they liked them all - although simulator time and flying seemed to top the list.

TATTS team members on the flight simulator.  Look at that concentration!

Explaining the real-time video feed.  The kids LOVED it!
TATTS team members get flight books & stickers for tasks completed
Flying the mini-drone.  Volunteer, operator & observer

Parents noted significant engagement throughout the day
Volunteers were impressed with the piloting skills of TATTS team members
Lots of room to learn to fly
Drone station taught them about transmitters, GPS and other hardware
It's great to have boys & girls participating