The Instructional Design Mold to Autism Training

This week’s blog entry, The Instructional Design Mold to Autism Training, was written by Vijayshree Rautela

autismThe instructional design formula, when correctly implemented, can make training for any type of target audience effective. It lays down a clear path for the instructional designer to follow right from analyzing and identifying the training need, determining what makes the audience learn best to implementing  training, and evaluating its effectiveness.

Autism and Instructional Design

My recent calling to create training for special needs children made me realize how true this really is. The focus for me has been on creating training solutions for autistic children. And I found there couldn’t be a better target audience to test the effectiveness of instructional design. What’s more it’s a perfect match – the defined structure and all the carefully outlined details and consistency in approach are some of integral elements in creating effective training for autistic children.  Here’s an audience that functions best in structure, order, and consistency. If you love to get into the psychology of your target audience and analyze what make them tick and learn, this could be a fun and self-fulfilling project.

Training for Autism

As an ‘ADDIE’ Instructional Designer, here’s how I see it working for training autistic children:

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After ADDIE, let’s look at the learner types.

It’s interesting to note that based on the learner type, the same content can be molded into different training types.

If it’s a visual learner, training could focus on visual strategies. It’s observed that visual thinking is more prominent in autistic individuals. So pictures with words and phrases describing an action or alphabet would be effective.For example, the letter A could be denoted with the picture of an apple with the alphabet printed alongside it.

For auditory learners, content could have learning strategies that are more audio-based. For example, some children may respond better if sentences, phrases, or words are sung to them. In case of kinesthetic learners, there could be more activities utilizing hands where learners get to touch and understand the objects – classroom training activities where the letters are actual plastic objects that the children can and touch and feel them to understand them.

Most autistic children have issues with motor control. If it’s online training, then using the mouse could be a problem. Touch screen commands would be more effective in this case. In fact it could be an engaging activity for learners if instructions are standardized graphics that they can consistently relate to, example: continue, back, click, select etc.

There’s usually a challenging skill or two to teach a target audience. For autistic children it is mostly social interaction. Autistic individuals are usually not social by nature and maintaining eye contact for them is a challenge. I’ve observed that autistic individuals enjoy watching shows, movies, and videos and absorbing information from them.

An interactive online training could be effective with engaging video demonstrations on social interactions that are identified as challenges for the child. The videos can be humorous, showing the “don’ts” in contrast to the “dos”. Mostly autistic children/individuals do well in learning from videos/movies that have close captioning – helps them watch and read simultaneously.

A blended learning solution could also be effective to target social interaction skills. After viewing videos and demonstrations online, there could be classroom interaction sessions where the learners get an opportunity to implement the same.

It’s important to keep in mind the behavioral issues and list of things that distract or frustrate the learners identified in the analysis stage. A group of support crew is very important to be present at this stage.

And who doesn’t love choices? When in a classroom set up, if met with opposition to perform a certain task, the strategy to offer choices that have the same learning result could work. This helps in identifying what the learner prefers to do and is also motivational.

Today there are various apps that are available to help engage and train children with autism. However, if it’s a training customized and tailor made to specific learner types and based on instructional design principles, it has better chances of effectiveness. There’s more work, but at the end of it, there sure is more fulfillment than for any other target audience to see your training solution work!

A special thanks to Vijayshree Rautela for sharing this important post on autism and instructional design with us.

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISDNow

How A Junk Mail Flyer Changed My Career

junk mailWho would have thought that receiving a junk mail flyer in my mailbox would have changed my career? How was I to know that this one particular flyer would have a significant impact on my professional life?

Dr. Greg Williams, Program Director for UMBC’s ISD Graduate Program, shares his story of how junk mail changed the trajectory of his career.

Junk Mail Offered a New Direction

In 1999, I was living in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. One day I received a flyer in the U.S. mail from an online university. They were recruiting potential faculty to teach online for them. I had wondered about teaching online, but never really did anything about before. From my research, reading and conversations with professional colleagues, it seemed like eLearning was poised to grow. And now, a supposed piece of junk mail confirmed it!

At the time of receiving this flyer, I was working at Towson University at the time in a staff position. I mentioned to a faculty member that I was thinking about going through the online university’s faculty training program. To my surprise he said that he knew someone who had gone through the same program and thought that it was excellent.

It All Started with a Junk Mail Flyer

I decided to enroll in the course. I thought it would be good for my career. I was right. Prior to this training course I had never taken an eLearning course myself, nor had I taught one. I had some limited experience with eLearning, but I never taught a complete online class.

This particular class required us to be available for 20 hours of class time, homework and studying each week. There were no exceptions for anyone. If you missed class time or were late on your assignments, you were removed form the class and had to start over again.

The course was modeled after the online university’s regular 5 week format. We experienced the same thing as students taking our courses. This helped to develop empathy, as well as to “walk a mile” in the students’ shoes.

It was a demanding and challenging experience. However, I learned a great deal. It was the foundation for developing my eLearning skills. Here is some of what I learned.

What I Learned About eLearning
1. It’s not “easy” being an online student. Online learning is not for everyone.
2. Online students need good time management skills, be motivated and disciplined.
3. eLearning is not about the technology. While online teachers use technology, a successful course is more about their ability to facilitate their learning.
4. Communication is very different. We know how simple email communication can easily get misunderstood. That misunderstanding can grow exponentially when it comes to eLearning.

Other Lessons Learned
1. Be open to change, it’s how we grow.
2. You never know where or when opportunities may pop up.
3. Use critical thinking and don’t believe everything you hear.
4. Take some calculated career risks.
5. Your career is dynamic, so you need to be dynamic too.

Because the flyer, my career would never be the same. It opened up a number of life-changing opportunities for me. Maybe you have some opportunities coming your way too. Would you recognize them? Be open-minded and give them a chance.

Lastly, take a quick glance at your junk mail before you throw it away.

Always in Learning Mode,
Your friends at ISD Now