Video Modeling in 6 easy steps learn with emily dot com

Video Modeling in 6 Easy Steps

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Video modeling is a research based instructional strategy for teaching new skills to children with autism. Video modeling is actually more effective than live modeling for children on the spectrum. Skills are acquired more quickly and better generalized when compared to live modeling (Charlop-Christy, Le, & Freeman, 2000). Video modeling would also be appropriate for other populations who would benefit from seeing a skill demonstrated.

Why is Video Modeling Effective?

  • Children with ASD have deficits in joint attention (Lord & McGee, 2001, p. 48).
  • These deficits limit the capacity of the child to learn through observation, which is one of the greatest influences on skill acquisition (Dowrick & Jesdale, 1991).
  • Video modeling has the capacity to secure the viewers attention and to be systematically controlled, thus tapping into skill acquisition through observational learning (Dowrick, 1991).
  • Video modeling also has the potential to extinguish a child’s dependence on a facilitator’s prompts in order to have appropriate behavior (Sturmey, 2003).

Additional Benefits of Video Modeling…

  • Video modeling has the potential to gain the attention of a child with autism. Most children like to watch videos and children who have autism are no exception. Many children with autism will “movie talk” or repeat movie lines over and over. “Movie talk” is a form of delayed echolalia. Echolalia, or imitation of others’ speech, is common in children with autism who do learn to talk (Prizant, Schuler, Wetherby, & Rydell, 1997). In addition, many children with ASD have learned to use their echolalic speech functionally (Prizant & Rydell, 1993).
  • One of the greatest benefits of creating instructional videos is the control the creator has over the video model. The videos can be designed to emphasize specific cues and behaviors. Explicit instruction is needed to increase the potential for generalization(Apple, Billingsley, & Schwartz, 2005).

The 5 Steps for Creating a Video Model

Step 1: Select a specific target behavior

The target behavior should be one that can be observed and sequenced. Video modeling is very appropriate for demonstrating how to do a new skill or to complete a new activity. Social skill, classroom routines, and conversation skills are all appropriate choices. I have personally created video models for what to do in a fire drill, how to take the attendance to the office, and how to wash your hands. Brushing teeth or other grooming activities would also be appropriate.

 Step 2: Conduct a task analysis of the target behavior

Evaluate the steps required for completing the target behavior. Consider the following questions in your analysis:

  • What is the complexity of the target behavior?  Is it too broad for the student?  Does the behavior need to be split into more specific behaviors?
  • Which step(s) has the child already mastered?
  • Does the student need other visual supports, such as activity schedules or cue cards due to auditory pro
    cessing impairments?
  • Will the child be able to imitate the target behavior if the video shows all of the steps in sequence?  Should the video use a chaining approach so the child can learn one step of the target behavior at a time?

Format your video based on the answers to the previous questions. Avoid including non-examples or inaccurate examples in your video.

For example, I realized that in a fire drill, a very loud sound goes off that may upset children with autism. It is also a change in routine, which also could result in difficulty. Previously, it was the routine of the special education teachers to take the children with autism outside before the fire alarm was set. My concern was that in a real life emergency, the children would not know what to do. A drill is designed to prepare for such an emergency. I felt like a video model would help the children know what to do in the drill, and thus know what to do when the alarm went off in a real emergency. The task analysis resulted in 5 steps including: ) lining up, 2) walking outside, 3) waiting, 4) walking back inside, and then 5) checking your schedule.

Step 3: Create Visual Supports

First, determine if there is a need for a visual support. Visual strategies are helpful since many children with autism have difficulty processing auditory input (Hodgdon, 1995). Visual supports can include:

Although visual supports are not required in video modeling, I have found them to be very helpful. Once the child has viewed the video of what to do, the visual support serves as a reminder of each step and the sequence in which the steps occur.

When I created a video on what to do in a fire drill, I added in extra visual supports. I created a schedule card for fire drill. I also created an activity schedule that had the steps of what we would do in the fire drill in sequence.I placed the same picture I used for the fire drill schedule card at the top of the activity schedule. Below this were the pictures to represent each step in completing the fire drill. The steps on my activity schedule were: 1) lining up, 2) walk outside, 3) wait, 4) walk inside, and 5) check your schedule.

Step 4: Recruit Actors

Anyone who can accurately model the target behavior can serve as the actor. In the video models I have created, I have always used adults. Children may also serve as actors. I selected adults due to the fact that they were readily available and could provide their own consent to be in the video. For the fire drill video, I taped my instructional assistants following the activity schedule.

The actors should be briefed on the purpose of the video and how to emphasize specific points. For example, I filmed a close up on the activity schedule before the step was demonstrated.

Step 5: Record the Video

Recording the video should only take a few minus after the actors have been prepared. Sometimes retakes are needed to cover unexpected interruptions or after further clarifying what you want the actors to do. I prefer to record using an iPad or iPhone due to ease of use.

When I created my video model of what to do in a fire drill, I worked with the principle on setting the fire alarm off. We filmed the procedure prior to students starting the school year. In the video, my actors were pretending to complete their school work and the fire alarm really went off. They then followed the activity schedule and demonstrated what to do in a fire alarm.

Step 6: Show the Child the Video

The final step is to show the video to your child or students. You may want to let the child watch the video multiple times before asking them to demonstrate the skill. If you have recorded your video using an iPad or iPhone, you can also show the child the video using the same device. If you would like the video on a larger screen, it can be streamed from your apple device to an apple TV.

In my classroom, I should my students the fire drill video a few times at the beginning of the school year. On the day of the first fire drill, I had my students watch the video once again. Later in the day when the fire alarm went off, they all knew what to do and followed the activity schedule for what to do in a fire drill.


Video modeling is an effective way to teach a new skill to individuals with autism. The skill selected should be task analyzed and broken down into sequenced steps. Consider using additional visual supports in your video model. Find and brief your actors and then record your video. Show the child the video prior to having them demonstrate the skill. Show the video again as needed.

For further reading on using video models, consider the following books:


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Apple, A. L., Billingsley, F., & Schwartz, I. S. (2005). Effects of video modeling alone and with self-management on compliment-giving behaviors of children with high-functioning ASD. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 7(1), 33-46.

Charlop-Christy, M. H., Le, L., & Freeman, K. A.  (2000). A comparison of video modeling with in vivo modeling for teaching children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30(6), 537-552.

Dowrick, P. W. (1991). Practical Guide to Using Video in the Behavioral Sciences. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Dorwrick, P. W. and Jesdale, D. C. (1991). “Modeling” pp 64-76 from Practical Guide to Using Video in the Behavioral Sciences.  New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Lord, C., & McGee, J. P. (Eds.). (2001). Educating Children With Autism. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Prizant B. M., & Rydell, P. J. (1993). “Assessment and intervention considerations for unconventional verbal behavior. In Communicative Alternatives to Challenging Behavior: Integration Functional Assessment and Intervention Strategies, J. Reichle and D. Waker, eds. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.

Prizant, B. M., Schuler, A. L., Wetherby, A. M., & Rydell, P. (1997). “Enhancing language and communication: Language approaches. Pp. 572-605 in Handbook of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders (2nd edition), D. Cohen and F. R. Volkmar, eds. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Sturmey, P. (2003). Video technology and persons with Autism and other developmental disabilities: An emerging technology for PBS. Journal of Positive Behavioral Interventions, 5(1), 3-4.


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