As most parents of children with autism will attest, video has long played an important role in the treatment of autism, ranging from early autism-focused DVD’s to the many autism-focused apps out there for iPads and other tablet devices. As interaction and communication is central to engaging children with autism, many therapists and experts do not recommend passive television watching. However, due to developments in both technology and research in autism therapy, there now exist an almost countless amount of DVD’s and downloadable videos designed to teach skills, concepts, and even emotional responses through carefully developed content.
Video has proved especially crucial in cases where children with autism do not respond to traditional therapy. Laura Kasbar, a mother of twins with autism, is the creator of the Gemiini System and was spurred to create the system when her twins who were diagnosed with autism failed to find any success with behavioral therapy like applied behavior analysis.
Kasbar created the system based on a form of video modeling she pioneered called “discrete video modeling.” Video modeling itself if a type of observational learning in which certain behaviors are learned through watching a demonstration of that behavior on-screen and then imitating that behavior. Video modeling has been identified by researchers as a valuable tool in treating autism since the late 90s, helping to teach such things as empathy or perspective while also keeping the attention of children who might otherwise get distracted.
Where Kasbar expanded on the traditional video modeling system was by focusing on children who did not respond to this watch-and-respond model. What Kasbar did, and other researchers later expanded upon, was to apply the principles of applied behavior analysis through extremely controlled video models in which words and their associations are displayed in extremely simple ways that facilitate a child’s ability to focus solely on learning.
As Kasbar herself said, “Gemiini brings the child out of themselves and actually appears to be restructuring the neurology in their brain.” To illustrate her point, Kasbar displayed an example of how her once non-verbal son learned to communicate using the system. Before being exposed to the video system, Max did not respond when his name was called, but following the program, he was soon able to communicate and interact with others. Both of her twin are currently thriving in college.
Of course, as with any autism treatment, the Gemiini system is not the only tool that many therapists that have found success with it have in their arsenal. According to Dr. Amanda Adams, the clinical director of the California Autism Center and Learning Group, “It’s a tool that should be in your toolbox of many other things combined. So along with good behavior intervention, a good school program, and all of the other pieces still in play, this tool I see as a supplement.”
So while the Gemiini system is certainly a tool that therapists and parents of children with autism should consider looking into, there are many other video modeling tools on the market that they might also find success with. Overall however, these video modeling systems like Gemiini are fantastic tools to further investigate.