Using Miss Rachel Songs for Littles to Help with Speech Delays and Autism

If you’re in the TikTok world you probably know all about Miss Rachel, a mom of a speech-delayed child who created the largely popular YouTube channel Miss Rachel Songs for Littles. Miss Rachel created this show to help her child with his speech, using proven techniques that I’ve been using for the last two decades and even created my own “Ms. Mary” videos.

Video Modeling and Screen Time

The current recommendation is that children under 2 should have little to no screen time unless video chatting and children over 2 should be limited to 1 hour of traditional screen time a day. I’ve talked about why screen time can be necessary, especially for busy moms who need a safe tool to get their own needs taken care of. But screen time, especially in the case of video modeling, can also be a great resource for learning and expanding your child’s speech. Another great characteristic of Ms. Rachel’s videos (and my own) is that her video modeling takes the form of a Video Chat or Zoom Therapy where she is engaging with the viewer. Videos can be a great tool because they can eliminate other distractions and allow the child to hyper-focus on just the skill at hand.

Proven Techniques

Ms. Rachel uses a variety of proven techniques that can expand and build a child’s language skills.

  • Video Modeling with an anticipated, consistent format
  • Parent-eese
  • One-word, one-syllable phrases
  • One word 3 times
  • Gestures
  • Songs
  • Pauses
  • Intraverbal Fill-ins

All of these are tested proven techniques that allow the child to engage and participate in their video-developing mands, tacts, and intraverbals.

You Can Create Videos Too!

If you have specific skills, names, or words you want to work on with your child or client you can create your own videos. With iPhones, it’s a lot easier and quicker to create these resources than it was when I made my very first with a camcorder and VHS. When making your videos be sure to include people your child knows: Parents, Siblings, Pets, Therapists, etc. Also use toys, pictures, foods, and songs that they are interested in. This will help develop speech skills relevant to their lives.

I’ve linked to my Ms. Mary videos I discussed in today’s episode. If you are on TikTok and not yet following me or Ms. Rachel, please do that. I highly recommend her channel, you can find her longer-form videos on YouTube at Songs for Littles. And if you decide to create your own videos, be sure to use the tips and advice I shared today!

Using Ms. Rachel Songs for Littles to Help with Speech Delays and Autism

Mary Barbera – Turn Autism Around Podcast Transcript

Transcript for Podcast Episode: 218

Using Ms. Rachel Songs for Littles to Help with Speech Delays and Autism

Hosted by: Mary Barbera

Mary: You're listening to the Turn Autism Around Podcast Episode number 218. Today I am going to talk about video modeling and some other proven techniques used by Ms. Rachel and me in my over two decades of experience working with kids with autism and toddlers showing signs. These techniques can oftentimes get kids talking and open the floodgates to more language. Let's get to this solo episode all about video modeling and the use of other techniques.

Intro: Welcome to the Turn Autism Around podcast. For both parents and professionals in the autism world who want to turn things around, be less stressed and lead happier lives. And now your host, Autism mom behavior analyst and bestselling author, Dr. Mary Barbera.

Using Video to Help Toddlers with Autism or Showing Signs

Mary: Okay, so let's jump into the proven techniques to help kids with autism and toddlers showing signs that I use all the time, both live and I make videos and that Ms. Rachel's also using. So, first of all, to catch you up if you're out of the loop and don't know who Ms. Rachel is. Ms. Rachel I found on TikTok, as some of you know, I started TikTok in May of 2022. We're already nearing 40,000 followers there. So if you're on Tik Tok or want to be on Tik Tok, come follow me. And also Ms. Rachel, she's great there. Anyway, so Ms. Rachel, her real name is Rachel Griffin Accurso. She was a music teacher in New York City schools, and she has a son who was speech delayed and didn't say his first word until two years, eight months. She left her job and started doing videos and now she is on YouTube, I think is her biggest platform and she has 1 billion views on her videos. So she does short form videos on Tik Tok, but longer episodes, you know, half an hour or even an hour long episodes that are geared towards little kids under the age of four or five. So I wanted to go through some of the techniques she uses and also with her videos coming up, especially her shorter form videos on TikTok and Instagram. Ms. Rachel reminded me that back, back, back, way back 2010/2011, when I had private clients in the early intervention field, I made videos like Ms. Rachel's short videos and used some techniques in those videos and of course in Live when I'm working with a child or encouraging and teaching parents how to work with their own children who are either autistic or maybe showing signs or maybe just speech. Joy Because the same techniques really work as illustrated as I'm going to illustrate with Ms. Rachel and my videos. So I got started with video modeling, which is a proven technique that has lots of research to support it. When I was trying to teach my son Lucas how to greet people because what would happen was they would say hi to Lucas and he would repeat. Hi, Lucas. Now, way back when he was three and four and five and six, I wasn't a behavior analyst, so I had no idea how to fix any of this. But I stumbled upon the idea to get out an actual, like, camcorder, video recorder and VHS tapes and the whole nine yards. I mean, I'm really dating myself, but it is what it is. I mean, this was more than two decades ago. And what I did with the greeting problem was I'd have his three therapists that would come to our house every day. I had them one by one. I would record the first person's name. Her name was Nina. And so I would record her ringing the doorbell. We'd open the door, I'd have the camcorder going, and she would say, Hi, Lucas. And that's all she'd say. And then she'd walk in, and then I'd have therapist number two. His name was Shaun, and the doorbell would ring. I'd open the door, He'd say, Hi, Lucas. And then the third therapist, the same thing. And so that video, then I put on a VHS tape and I would play it for Lucas. And then as the therapist came in and said, Hi, Lucas. I would prompt Lucas to say hi, Nina. And from just that video, he was able to greet the person back and he was able to generalize that. So that's a good example. And now with iPhones and smartphones, I mean, you could make that kind of video very, very quickly. I've used this technique. I have a bonus video within my online courses that shows the technique being used. It doesn't have to be a doorbell. It doesn't have to be a door that could be coming in from the kitchen to the family room. It could be all different environments. But basically to teach kids how to wave, how to say the person's name when they greet for both hi and bye. So that was early on then when I became a behavior analyst and this is in if you have the book Turn Autism Around, which is my latest book, it's almost two years old now. It was published in 2021. And in the book on page 145 is the story of Kurt. I also did a video blog about Kurt, which we can link in the show notes here as well. But what happened with Kurt was his family moved from one location to another and I became his early intervention professional. And Kurt was two and a half at the time. He had had a lot of services that just weren't working. He was aggressive and self-injurious. He had moderate autism diagnosis and he had what I now call pop out words. He had words here and there. And as some of you know, if you've been following me for a long time, I have early learning materials in my book. I will talk about the earlier materials. And part of my programs usually involves potato head and through the use of potato head, saying Eyes, eyes, eyes. As I handed Kurt and other kids the eyes and he put the eyes and potato head through that. I was there for two hour sessions, and after about four months with Kurt, he would say ten words in those 2 hours. And I would have to really work hard to get those words. And I came to find out that the words that he was using were mostly body parts. So I was going to be away. I was going to Hawaii. It was over Christmas time. I was going to be away for a three week chunk of time. And as the behavior analysts and the in listening know that if a child doesn't become vocal, you know, within weeks or months, I mean good practices that you would start sign language. And we were trying to do sign language. We were trying to video me teaching Kurt some basic signs so that they could work on this and they could show the video to the other therapist. And what Kurt did was he ran around, got out of the seat, ran around and wanted to watch the video of me. And then I remembered how video modeling was just such a proven technique and that maybe we should try it. So I made two videos that day. We call them the Ms. Mary videos, and I had a bunch of my clients use the Ms. Mary videos. We are pulling them out of the vault and sharing with you today the Ms. Mary videos and the two that really worked for Kurt. Well, the two that we made that day were me singing Eyes Nose as I was pointing to my body parts, eyes, nose, mouth, teeth, glasses. And then I said, Hi. Those were some of his pop out words. I also made a video. The therapist took a video of me standing there singing Head, shoulders, knees and toes. Get the idea. I asked Mom if she could put those two videos on Kurt's iPad, and I literally forgot all about it until I arrived back three weeks later. And I said hi, and Kurt said, High eyes, nose, mouth, teeth, glasses, hi. And I said, Oh my goodness, I forgot about the videos. But you obviously put them on his iPad because he had said that the body parts were in the exact order that I made them on that day, instead of getting ten words in 2 hours, I got 100 words in 2 hours. And we went on to put on some of Kurt's programs like Touch the Banana, and we'd have an adult hand going in and touching the banana. We put all of his programs on video and on his iPad. Not forever, but just to jump start his program. So for Kurt and some kids, they hyperfocus on the video. It gets rid of all distractions. And some of the techniques we're going to talk about are in this video and as well as in Ms. Rachel's videos, which are, you know, have a billion views. So let's go through a couple points and through these points I am going to show you and tell you how you can make your own videos and your own video modeling with the people, pets and things that your child or clients really like. So before we get into that, I do want to put kind of a disclaimer that the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend any screen time for kids under two, except for video chatting and then kids ages 2 to 5 years of age. They recommend less than one hour of screen time per day. So Ms. Rachel's videos and my videos from more than a decade ago, they are like video chats. In some ways they are like therapy on Zoom, which we all have all experienced. Now, if your child or clients. Received any therapy during COVID. And so I believe as long as you use screen time in small amounts and you use it to engage your child and really to increase skills, that is probably fine. I did do a video blog years ago, before COVID, way before COVID. On why I wouldn't stop screen time for kids with autism or toddlers showing signs, and we can link that in the show notes. This is kind of controversial, but I have found over the years with my own son, as well as all of my clients, that sometimes as a mom, you need some time where the child is safe and engaged, where you can, you know, switch a load of laundry. In some cases, the child is safe enough that you could run up and get a shower. You know, we all have experienced where, you know, even typically developing kids get too much screen time. And I would try to keep the screen time under an hour total per day, even for toddlers and preschoolers with autism. And I know that's hard. And whenever possible, I would try to engage it with your child, like watching Ms. Rachel for an hour with your child, doing the gestures, doing the hand motions, saying Mama with Ms. Rachel and really engaging your child during that time. Don't use it as, you know, put it on for an hour and let your young child sit there and watch alone. So try to keep screen time to an hour a day, maybe in smaller chunks, like 15 minute chunks or two minute chunks or up to a half an hour. But it's a lot of the time. And we know from the research that all kids, whether they have autism speech delay or they're typically developing in every way, need to be engaged most of their waking hours. And so when people say, well, is 20 hours baby therapy enough or 40 hours or what about 2 hours of speech therapy, 5 hours of speech therapy a week. Kids need to be engaged during most of their waking hours. That is about 100 hours a week. And that can sound extremely overwhelming. And I know it is. And that's their waking hours. So if you find that your child, whether they have autism or not, are watching, you know, four, five, 6 hours of screen time a day that includes TV, iPad, phone, any electronic device, I would seriously sit down and think about, you know, does your child need a babysitter, a nanny, a mommy's helper or an older sibling to engage? Do they need daycare or something structured? Do they need a special ed setting for part of the day? We need to keep our kids engaged. Okay. Let's get back to Kurt. So Kurt made a lot of progress, not just that day. He literally opened the floodgates to his language. And I created more videos than not just for Kurt. I could send the videos of me doing eyes, nose, mouth, teeth, and glasses to my other clients' parents. I could send those because Kurt wasn't in the videos. And no, no children were in the videos so I could share them as the Miz videos, so I could share the song villains and I could share those. I could share when I was at another client's house doing the ABC on the Magna Doodle. So they were reporting that, you know, it was just coming time to have, you know, smartphones and they were engaging their kid at the grocery store with the Ms. Mary videos and things like that. So I'm going to link the Ms. Mary videos in the show notes here. So just come to this podcast and get those show notes.

Proven Techniques for Video Modeling:

Mary: So some proven techniques that Ms. Rachel and my videos use. Are video modeling. As I said, some kids hyperfocus on the screen and watch some videos. Watching some videos will cause them to learn more than they would learn if I was standing there singing head, shoulders, knees and toes. I think because it's very repetitive, I'm going in the exact same order. Just like DVDs go in the same order. They know when their character's going to come from behind the sofa. So that's actually another technique is if you are going to do videos or in-person things like songs like Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, it's good to pick songs that go in the same order. And for songs that don't always go in the same order, like old McDonald's, for instance, or McDonald had a farm. A lot of teachers, speech therapists, and behavior analysts all want to vary it. But until you can get kids talking and echoing you, I find it's better to always go in the same order. So for all of my clients, the old McDonald, the cow would come first, the sheep would come second, the dog would come third for the wheels on the bus. The horn on the bus would go first. The baby's crying would go second, the mommy shushing would go third. You get the idea. I had these written down so that I could remember when I was modeling and the therapists would always do the same order. Now, of course, once children start to talk and start to echo, it's important to vary it. But I find that making a video model and having the kid watch that repeatedly and we don't want to watch it too much, you know, after Kurt did that eyes, nose, mouth, teeth, glasses, we don't want him to keep watching that. Then we want to vary the order and we want to add more. But in a lot of cases, like with Kurt, it did open the floodgates.

Parent-eese and Other Verbal Techniques:

Mary: Okay. Another technique we use that Ms. Rachel uses as well as I use, is parent-eese, where we use long vowels, higher pitch, we talk slower, less words, less syllable length, and in a more animated way. So if I just say bubbles, let's blow some bubbles. That's not going to be as exciting as bubble bubble POP POP. You see, I'm exaggerating. I have a higher tone. I'm more animated and it's really important. I think I stress probably a little bit more than Ms. Rachel does. But to use single words 1 to 2 syllables in length. Up, up, up. As you're climbing the stairs instead of Johnny, let's go up the steps and get a bath. If I were speaking in a foreign language to you, you wouldn't understand, you know, anything. But if I say. Up, up, up. And it's something fun that the child likes to do, they're more likely to say it to get something they want in the future. Another technique we can use, whether you're live or making a video, is the one word times three strategy. And this is where you pair the word with an item that the child likes and knows, like going up without requiring them to say it. Even if they said the word yesterday or one hour ago or even one minute ago. We can't force a child to speak. And so we're going to want to use the one word up to three times throughout the day. So if they want to go outside, we get down to their level. We say open, open, open. If they say open or upper, as soon as you say it, the first time the door gets swung open, they get what they want. If you hold up a banana and they really want it, you say banana. If they say Nana, give them a banana using the one word type three strategy, which I talk a lot about in my Turn Autism Around book as well as might Turn Autism Around online course and community. It will usually result in more language. Ms. Rachel also does a really good job with pausing after she asks kids to say or do something. You don't want to just go, Oh, everybody clap your hands, Clap your hands and stomp your feet. You want to say, clap your hands, Can you do it? Clap, clap. And you might even want to pause as you're bringing your hands slowly together. Can you march, marching and start marching? So pausing, letting kids, she says a lot of. Can you say ma, ma? Ma, ma. The other thing she does is she incorporates sign language with most of her words as well. And that's another technique. Ms. Rachel and I use a lot of music songs and I refer to them as intraverbal fill-ins, so. Ms. Rachel doesn't call them intraverbal fill-ins, but that's what they are. For example, Twinkle, twinkle, little, leaving a blank, pausing and leaving room for that star. You can even have a picture of a star or a real 3D item. That's a star. Lucas was able to do intraverbal fill-ins when he was like two years old, and it started with the Arthur theme song, which, you know, those of you that were following me forever. I said this once or twice, but it was this cartoon character, and my husband discovered it. This was well before I knew anything about mands, tacts, intraverbals or echoics. I knew nothing. My husband goes, Watch this. And he said, and I said. And then Lucas said, Hey, my husband said, What a wonderful kind of Lucas said Day. You can work, learn to work. And Lucas said, Play. But Lucas, you know, So I was like, Oh, that's cool. That's a little trick. I didn't realize he was speech delay at the time. I mean, he just would say these words. I would count them as real words, even though he couldn't say play if I said play. He couldn't say Arthur's name. If you held up the box, the VHS tape box, like nothing but these intraverbal song fill-ins are really, really powerful. And a lot of times when kids are speech delayed with other parts of expressive language, you can kind of go in the back door to get intraverbal fill-ins. I talk about intraverbal fill-ins a lot in my online courses, and I might have a podcast or a blog on it too. If we do, we'll link it in the show notes.

Gestures and Other Skills:

Mary: We both Ms. Rachel and I both incorporate gestures. So the two videos that Kurt got Kurt talking included me touching my body parts. As I was saying I'd know. It also included me touching my head, shoulders, knees and toes as I was singing the song slowly and in an animated way. Video modeling can be used to teach specific skills like Greetings, which I discussed imitation play skills. When creating the videos. It's important to use yourself whether your parents or professionals also use the parent. Also use siblings and familiar children. So videos are highly engaging with familiar people whenever possible. An example of using video modeling to teach a specific skill like greetings. The steps would be, you know, to have the people that you want to say hi, either enter the room or leave the room and say bye___ child's name and then leave a blank. The next one can come in, say hi child's name, and if you have a short video with two or three people saying hi and or bye, you can then show the child a video and prompt a response of saying hi or bye with the other person's name. We also use video modeling all the time to increase language. And that's, I think, what Ms. Rachel you know, she gets lots of videos made. Really show that babies are getting their first words really, really early. And older kids, even kids with autism, are improving with watching the Ms. Rachel videos, especially if the parent is also engaging. We also did a podcast interview with speech flubs, the creator of Speech Flubs, which is an app that has millions of views and you can get a free account. We can link them in the show notes and they use children and lots of animation on the screen to elicit successful echoing from children. It encourages them to watch the children's faces. So that's an important thing. If you are going to make your own videos make sure to zoom in on your face or at least your body with a more of a plain background so that the children are focusing on the right things. And with apps, with anything, you know, with Ms. Rachel or Speech blobs or even your own videos, you don't want to play them too much. Otherwise the children can get very rigid, especially those with autism. A lot of my online course focuses on these techniques and in my toddler course and community. Half of the parents who introduce themselves there do not have a diagnosis for autism for their children. These techniques were great for speech delayed kids. I interviewed Katty, who has a son who was just diagnosed with the speech. Joy made a lot of progress, went from like two words to conversational in a year with my courses, so we can link my show notes to the courses. You'll learn to create your own in-person parent led therapy activities that you can do in 15 minutes a day. And if you're a professional listening, we have lots of techniques for professionals to not only work with the children but encourage parent led therapy when the child is not in session so that you get those hundred hours of engagement per week.

Creating Videos for Your Child or Client:

Mary: So whether you are live engaging with a child directly or making a video, you want to do a couple of things. You want to pick materials, pictures, puzzles that use words that are highly reinforcing. So a picture of their mom and you then call them Mom, Mom, mom, Mommy, If the child is vocal already, if you have a dog named Spot or a cat named Inky, you can hold up the picture and you could say those pet names, juice, crackers, whatever the child likes to eat and drink. We want pictures. We want the actual items. We want to use pictures or objects that you've heard the child say the name of or at least babble part of the name of the picture or object whenever possible. So if a child has said mama or doggy in the past, we want to have those pictures included in the early learner programs. We want to have two pictures at the same time, identical pictures of the mama picture, so that eventually we can have matching programs going as well. Some of the Ms. Mary videos that I'm going to be sharing in the show notes here are focused a little bit too much, in my opinion, on letters and numbers. Many young children with autism, including Lucas and many of my clients in the early days of 2010 and 11 when I was working in early intervention, were hyperlexic and we could put a hyperlexia link in the show notes. You can learn more, but basically what it is is an intense interest in letters and most hyperlexic children can read before they can say nouns like mama or spot. If letters or numbers are the only way or the main way to get your child talking or echoing. I'd use them in videos and in live sessions, but I'd be careful not to hyper focus on academic or pre academic skills. In some of my tik-tok videos I hold up flashcards with an apple and then the A or the word apple and I literally cut them off because when you're teaching a child Apple, you don't want them hyper focusing on the letter. But sometimes that's the way to get more language and the ability to echo. So you also shouldn't focus on pre academic skills like colors or shapes before a child can speak and can echo. A lot of times there's way too much focus on things like colors before or, you know, purple grape or yellow chair and children with autism or toddler showing signs really need to get to the nouns first. The people, the reinforcers, the foods, the drinks, the animals first, and then start building more complexity into their language with colors, shapes, numbers and letters.

Find Ms. Rachel on TikTok and Youtube:

Mary: Video modeling can also be used very successfully with desensitization of haircuts, doctors, dentist appointments, as well as other aversive processes. I have used video modeling of my typical son Spencer, going to get a haircut successfully and showed that to Lucas as part of our procedure to get haircuts better early on. And I cover desensitization a lot in my online course and community where even typically developing kids may have very bad tantrums related to going into the doctors dentists haircuts. And these techniques work whether your child is autistic, speech, delay or typically developing. So in summary, the techniques that Ms. Rachel uses, I do approve of her. I would encourage you to use these techniques, whether you're engaging a child live or making a video. And for more information, how you can put this all together and really see the successful transformation that many of our clients and course participants have had is to join our online course in community. We have a course for kids that are under six, and then we have another course for kids who are over six. But if the child is not yet conversational, not talking or just talking a little bit, and has some words and phrases, you can benefit from these techniques. I hope you'll try them out. And definitely I would follow Ms. Rachel. We're going to link to today's show article. She was interviewed by the Today Show recently, and we're going to link that interview with her. She's great. Very helpful advice on Instagram, Tik Tok, and especially YouTube. And check out all the links in the show notes here. And just keep going forward and helping kids both with autism and toddler showing signs to make progress every day. I'll see you next time.

Mary: If you're a parent or an autism professional and enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out my online course and community where we take all of this material and we apply it. You'll learn life changing strategies to get your child or clients to reach their fullest potential. Join me for a free online workshop at where you can learn how to avoid common mistakes. You can see videos of me working with kids with and without autism, and you can learn more about joining my online course and community at a very special discount. Once again go to for all the details. I hope to see you there.