Video Modeling: What It Is and Why It Works

In November of 2016, I got a fantastic opportunity to attend an Autism Conference in Lansing, Michigan. It was there that James Ball, a BCBA, spoke very highly of an intervention method called video modeling. With such a strong recommendation, I knew that I’d have to tell you about it!

Video modeling is an evidence-based form of behavioral modification, in which a person—typically a child—repeatedly watches a video that teaches them how to perform a specific skill (or corrects negative behavior by showing what desired behavior looks like). The skill could pertain to a number of things, as long as it entails under six or seven steps: washing hands, completing homework, greeting a friend, taking out the garbage, you name it.

Teacher With Boy Using Digital Tablet In Classroom

The teaching method is effective because it’s great for visual learners (which people with autism often are), and it removes the social interaction aspect that is commonly involved with traditional teaching. That reduces anxiety and helps the child focus solely on what’s being taught. The repetition also helps engrain the concept into the child’s mind.

So where do you get the video? There are three things you can do:

  1. Find a video from YouTube or another video streaming site. This was what James Ball talked about in his speech, but he warned his listeners to always, always, ALWAYS watch through the video in full before using it as a teaching device. The internet can be a very…uh…colorful place, and the last thing you want to do is accidentally expose your child to something inappropriate!
  2. Record a video of yourself or another person modeling the behavior. This is a great way to tailor it individually to your child and their needs.
  3. Record the child modeling the behavior themselves. This is called video self-modeling. Of course, you may need to prompt your child to complete each step in the recording and then edit out those prompts to make the video run cleanly and smoothly.

Asian girl is watching her hand with clean water

After you find or create the video, have the child watch it regularly, redirecting their attention if they get distracted. Then prompt them when they work on the task themselves, or have them watch the video as they complete each step of the process. When the child starts grasping the skill, slowly start weaning them off it and slowly stop giving them prompts when completing the task. They should eventually be able to do it independently.

And that’s my super quick, surface-level explanation of how video modeling works! If you have any questions or want to know about it in greater depth, talk to your child’s therapist or check out this handy guide. You can also see an example of this teaching method in the video below.

Support Research & Therapy

Help those with Autism and their families at The Autism Site for free!