Kristi’s Corner – Taking Advantage of Technology: Video Modeling

Teaching Social-Communication Skills to Preschoolers with Autism: Efficacy of Video Versus In Vivo Modeling in the Classroom

Wilson, K. P. (2013) Journal of Developmental Disorders 43:1819-1831

Article review written by: Kristi Hansen

Video modeling is a useful tool often used with children on the autism spectrum in which a skill or chain of behaviors is demonstrated in video form as a prompt for the child to imitate. A rich body of research supports the use of video modeling as an effective teaching method without the use of any additional prompts or reinforcement. Video modeling has been used to teach daily living skills, communication, play skills, and more. This article by Wilson (2013) poses the question: Is video modeling a more effective tool than modeling a skill in person (also known as in vivo modeling)?

Kristi Hansen, Author & RBT

There was a three-tiered purpose to the study: 1) To compare the effectiveness of video modeling in contrast to in vivo modeling (in person) in a public school classroom; 2) To compare the participants’ visual attention to each type of model; and 3) To assess educator’s attitudes toward each type of model for use in the classroom.

Four preschool-aged children diagnosed with ASD who attended public school were the participants for this study. Each child had the necessary prerequisite imitation skills and were able to attend to a video for 3 minutes. Additionally, each of the participants’ teachers reported to use technology regularly in the classroom. For each participant a pivotal social-communicative skill was selected as a target behavior and approved by the parents. These goals included communicative behaviors such as gesturing “more” when a desired item or activity is withdrawn, pointing to direct others’ attention, or reaching to communicate a request for an item. Both the video modeling and the in vivo treatments were 3 minutes in length and were delivered an average of three times per week, for a minimum of 5 sessions and a maximum of 15 sessions.

The results of the study showed greater visual attending to the video model for all of the participants, as well as greater social validity for the video model. All of the teachers involved in the study reported they planned to use video models again in the future. Additionally, three out of the four participants showed increases in the targeted social-communicative goal after being exposed to the models — one responded better to in vivo models, one responded better to video models and the third responded equally to both. 

Straight Talk

Video modeling is a great tool to take advantage of in our modern technology-saturated world. Children are accustomed to using electronic devices and “screen time” is often highly preferred for many children with ASD. This intense focus on screens can actually be a benefit with the use of video modeling, as it helps to ensure the student is attending to the intended skill being demonstrated, rather than other irrelevant details that may be more likely to distract a child in an in vivo model. Other advantages to using video models include the relatively little time it takes to create the model, its inexpensive production, and that the model will be the same every time and can be accessed as many times as needed, unlike an in vivo model. Here are some tips for making and/or using video models:

First, make sure your student has prerequisite skills

In order for video modeling to be effective, the child must first be able to imitate actions demonstrated by others, and be able to stay focused for the duration of a short video

Keep videos short and simple

Eliminate any extraneous elements that could distract from the skill being demonstrated

Individualize the model to the unique interests of the child

One of the great benefits of video modeling is that they may be readily individualized. If your kiddo is crazy about trains, you can choose to integrate this interest into the video. Similarly, if he needs help with a skill in a specific setting (swim class, at grandparents’ house, soccer practice) you can easily film the model in that context.

Show the video model directly before an opportunity to practice the skill

If your video model addresses initiating play with peers on the playground, show the child the video directly before going on an outing to the park or before a playdate, so he has the opportunity to imitate.

Video could feature adults, peers, or even be a self-model!

Research has shown that adult and child models are equally effective. However, it may be particularly engaging for your child to watch a recording of him or herself correctly demonstrating a skill that they are continuing to work on. 

There are several companies that have created helpful video modeling packages available for purchase, such as Model Me Kids, or Watch Me Learn. Not all video models need to break down the skill being demonstrated the way some of these videos do. For kiddos with less developed language skills, it is also effective to simply show the correct behavior or skill being demonstrated.

We at Footprints have our own YouTube channel with some video models on social skills and cooperative games. Check out our channel!

Additional Video Resources:

Resolving Disagreements

Mr. Potato Head


Making Connected Comments

Think It or Say It?


  • Calendar icon March 24, 2017