Seeing is Believing: Using Video Modeling for Effective Therapy

Video modeling is an effective intervention that works across disabilities and behaviors. Twenty years ago the idea of creating videos about and for children would have been a daunting proposition. Now, with smartphones, people can film, edit, and watch videos on the same platform. This accessibility means no more excuses: video modeling should be in every therapist’s repertoire.

Video vs. Live Modeling

Children with disabilities such as autism and ADHD may have trouble engaging in and completing tasks within an instructional process. Children with autism may also avoid social interactions with an instructor. In these situations, traditional modeling often doesn’t work; whereas video modeling excels.

Put a tablet in a child’s hands and engagement is almost assured (to the point where disengagement may even become a problem). This initial and ongoing engagement is one of the most important factors for learning.1

Types of Video Modeling

There are three major forms of video modeling:

  • Adult/Peer Modeling – Another person performs the task or skill you want your client to learn.
  • Point-of-View Modeling (POV) – A video of the desired behavior is filmed from the child’s perspective. This requires someone to complete a task while filming from the child’s perspective. Typically only the hands of the model appear in the final movie, thus limiting the types of behaviors that can be modeled. However, this can make POV an intervention of choice for teaching functional skills.
  • Self-Modeling – Children serve as their own models. This type of playback is easily accessible given the popularity of smartphones.

Building a Video Archive

One of the advantages of peer and POV modeling is that the movie can be reused at anytime with anyone. An SLP can make a video showing a peer making requests or creating the “th” sound. That video can be used with any individual with similar needs. Likewise, an OT can make a POV movie of “shoe tying” and use it for any child.

Every video can be added to a digital archive to steadily increase the number of behaviors and skills covered. It won’t take long to build an impressive repertoire that can be used prescriptively with clients.

Supporting Research

Video peer-modeling has a long and impressive track record. Research that began in the 1970s has proliferated since 1990 and paints a rosy picture. Two of the leading researchers, Marjorie Charlop-Christy and Christos Nikopoulus, consistently report positive results for VM in their studies.2,3

Remarkable Results

Video modeling has also produced remarkable results in some individuals. In behaviors such as social initiations, tantrums, and language learning we have seen drastic improvements after only one or two viewings.4 Many of the children in these studies are disabled and the majority of participants are on the autism spectrum.

Is There a Downside to Video Modeling?

VM uses only positive imagery in instruction making it a good choice for positive behavior support teams. The only negative effect may be the use of a target behavior far beyond the child’s ability. However, this should not be a problem for professionals who constantly evaluate progress. The behaviors must be advanced, but ability-appropriate.

One must also be sensitive to confidentiality issues and informed consent of parents and guardians. You must gather permissions, including the informed consent of parents of peer models to allow one to use the VM movies on a regular basis.

Getting Started in Video Modeling

From the evidence presented, video modeling is an effective intervention technique for children with varying disabilities or behavior impairments. Most therapists already possess the tools needed to get started. It’s time to add this efficient and effective technique to your toolbox.

  1. Kuh, G. D. (2001). Assessing what really matters to student learning: Inside The National Survey of Student Engagement. Change: The Magazine Of Higher Learning, 33, 10-17.
  2. Charlop, M.H., Gilmore, L., & Chang, G. T. (2008). Using video modeling to increase variation in the conversation of children with autism. Journal of Special Education Technology, 23, 47-53.
  3. Nikopoulos, C.K & Keenan, M. (2007). Using video modeling to teach complex social sequences to children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 37 (4), 678-693.
  4. Buggey, T. (2009). Seeing is Believing: Self-modeling Applications with Children with Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities. Baltimore; Woodbine House.