Autism and Video Modeling


Autism and video modeling is a topic that has received a lot of attention from researchers and autism professionals in recent years. This emerging, evidence-based ABA technique has shown to be quite effective in helping many individuals with autism make gains in a variety of developmental areas.

Autism and Video Modeling: How It's Done

Video modeling uses videotaped sequences to model desired behaviors. For instance, for the youngster who has difficulty engaging in pretend play, a therapist might play a video that shows children using those skills. The goal is to demonstrate how pretend play is done and allow the child with autism to learn by imitation. While imitation can be an issue with autism, children with autism often will imitate actions on video tape more readily than ones seen face-to-face. Also, video demonstrations offer the opportunity to watch a sequence of events over and over again until it is committed to memory, enhancing the potential for learning the skills portrayed.

How Video Modeling Is Used

Social Skills

Social skills are one area in which video modeling is used successfully. Among the difficulties frequently seen with autism is an inability to interpret non-verbal communication, like gestures or facial expression. By showing video tapes of children in a number of social scenarios, showing emotions through facial expression, therapists or teachers can help children with autism learn to recognize these non-verbal cues. Another common social skills deficit in children with autism is an inability to adhere to the normal give and take flow of conversation. Some will monopolize the conversation, going on and on about a topic well after it has lost its appeal for the listener, while others will not participate, leaving the talking to others. Video demonstrations of proper turn taking in conversation have shown very effective in teaching those skills.

Functional and Self Help Skills

Children with autism who have short attention spans or low frustration thresholds can have trouble learning basic daily living skills. In many cases, a child who cannot sit still or maintain attention through a one-on-one demonstration of shoe tying or face washing can watch these same demonstrations on the video screen without a problem. Video modeling can give the opportunity to observe and imitate without the added stress of direct interaction, which can make learning more difficult for children with social anxieties.

Behavioral Intervention

Positive reinforcement is a powerful teaching tool. Video modeling has made use of it to modify inappropriate behaviors in children, as well as to encourage desirable ones with very promising results. Teachers, therapists, or parents can use video sequences to model appropriate behavior, allowing children with autism to clearly understand what is expected of them and the steps that should be taken to comply. Often, self modeling is used for behavior modification, taping the daily routine of the child in question. Then, the video is edited to remove incidents of poor behavior, corrections, and prompts given to encourage desirable behavior. What is left is a video in which the child can watch himself doing everything right, a technique that has proven effective in reducing or eliminating behavior issues in many children with autism.

A Step Toward Leveling the Field

Much of the learning that takes place in the average person is done by means of observation, simply watching and imitating others. People with autism often are unable to absorb information in this manner, needing proactive teaching methods in order to acquire skills that come effortlessly to others. Autism and video modeling has shown to be a great match in this respect, allowing children the opportunity to make up some of that ground lost to the effects of autism spectrum disorders.

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Autism and Video Modeling