A newly-launched “Lost in Public” video, produced by the Autism Research Group, demonstrates how to use rules, role playing, and praise to teach children what to do if they get lost.
The Autism Research Group(ARG) this week launched “Lost in Public,” a five-minute video that instructs children and guardians how to use rules, role playing, and praise to teach children what to do if they become lost in a public setting.
ARG is a nonprofit organization dedicated to using science to help individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). “We study ways to improve the lives of children with autism. One way is by teaching them safety skills, such as what to do when they get lost. We also study the art of teaching – what works, what doesn’t,” says ARG Associate Scientist Ryan Bergstrom, M.A., BCBA.
”Lost in Public” was filmed on the streets of Los Angeles with Bergstrom as the interviewer and instructor. Bergstrom asks random people what they would teach children to do if they got lost and how they would teach it. The unscripted responses are humorous anecdotes. However, Bergstrom says the video and its lesson are, by no means, a laughing matter.
According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children®, the first three hours are the most critical when trying to locate a missing child. The most recent study conducted by U.S. Department of Justice, National Estimates of Missing Children: An Overview (2002) estimates that approximately 800,000 children younger than 18 were reported.
“Lost in Public” video provides an alternative to the commonly-used method of establishing a meeting spot, as a child who is lost and nervous might not be able to find the meeting spot. Instead, it teaches children to do 3 things if they can’t find their parent:
1. Yell “Mom!” or “Dad!”
2. If that doesn’t work, find a store employee. (If a child can’t find an employee, you might tell him or her to look for a mom with kids.)
3. Inform the employee that you’re lost.
Once the child has mastered the rules, families should practice with their child in real-world situations by role playing that they are lost. When the child is successful during the role playing, Bergstrom says it is important to reinforce correct responding with praise or a reward which “seals the deal.”
In 2012, ARG published a study in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis that evaluated how rules, role playing, and praise were effective in establishing help-seeking behaviors in children with autism. “This video was created not just for families of children with autism but as a tool for all families to use in order to prevent an unfortunate and terrifying incident from occurring,” says Bergstrom.
“Lost in Public” can be viewed online at www.autismresearchgroup.org.