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Seeing is Believing


Editor’s Note – The following article was written by Amy F. Hobbs, Training Coordinator with the Autism Society of North Carolina.

Research shows that video modeling is an effective strategy to use with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder to improve social and communication skills. As a trainer, I frequently emphasize the importance of showing children with autism what you want them to do as opposed to just telling them. Verbal directions are typically difficult for individuals with autism to process as their visual processing skills are more advanced than their auditory processing skills. Video modeling or the process of instructing through watching a model therefore provides an excellent opportunity for students to actually see the behavior or the skill that is requested and therefore better understand it.

Not only is video modeling time and cost effective, but it can be rehearsed and rerecorded until the exact skill or behavior desired is captured. This is a much cleaner method than live modeling and can be watched repeatedly until the skill is learned as well as used as a tool for maintaining the skill. In fact, video modeling is a practical method of instruction for teachers that can be used with multiple individuals needing practice on the same skill.

As with computer screens, video modeling takes away the interpersonal component present in 1:1 teaching that makes learning more challenging for individuals with autism. It offers instead a mode of instruction that is highly motivating and fosters independence.

Video modeling has been used to teach many different social, academic, behavioral or functional skills from iPod use to how to give a compliment. Many studies show the success of video modeling in teaching challenging social skills such as recognition of emotions, perspective taking, social initiations, eye contact, social greeting, sharing and engagement in social conversation. My goal here is to demonstrate the simplicity of the video modeling process by giving some basic steps to follow.

  1. Determine if the child has the perquisite skills needed to ensure success. These include basic imitation skills, normal visual and hearing acuity, and the ability to attend to a video for at least one minute.
  2. Teach a skill that can be easily modeled and observed. An ideal target skill is one that the child is able to do with prompting.
  3. Decide who to use as models in the video. Peers, siblings or other children of a similar age are good choices. Once the skill or behavior is learned, videotape the child with autism displaying the target skill or behavior (video self-modeling). This can be a powerful tool for increasing the child’s self-efficacy (Bray & Kehle, 1996) as well as reinforcing the maintenance of the skill.
  4. Write the script for the models and keep it short. Three to five minutes is recommended, but it can be shorter.
  5. Video the models making sure that the important actions are clearly visible and that the audio is clear and free of distracting sounds. Keep it simple.
  6. Intervention includes:
    a. Showing the video model to the child with autism several times and then
    b. Providing a time and place to practice the skill.
    c. Monitoring and keeping data on the child’s progress.
    d. Testing to see if skills generalize to other settings and people.

Often video modeling instruction is paired with another method of teaching such as peer mentoring, social skills groups, self-management, reinforcement, role modeling and other applied behavior analysis techniques to ensure success. Below is a list of research articles that demonstrate success using video modeling.


  • Bray, M., & Kehle, T. (1996). Self-modeling as an intervention for stuttering. School Psychology Review, 25, 358-369.
  • Other research:
  • Bellini, S., Akullian, J., & Hopf, A. (2007). Increasing Social Engagement in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders Using Video Self-Modeling. School Psychology Review: Volume 36, Issue No. 1.
  • Charlop-Christy, M.H., & Daneshvar, S. (2003). Using Video Modeling to Teach Perspective Taking to Children with Autism. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions: Volume 5, Issue No. 1, pp. 12-21.
  • 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: Volume 30, Issue No. 6, pp. 537-552.
  • Corbett, B.A. (2003). Video Modeling: A Window into the World of Autism. The Behavior Analyst Today: Volume 4, Issue No. 3.
  • Corbett, B.A. & Abdullah, M. (2005) Video Modeling: Why Does It Work for Children with Autism? Journal of Early and Intensive Behavior Intervention: Volume 2, Issue No. 1, pp. 2-8.
  • D’Ateno, P., Mangiapanello, K., & Taylor, B. A. (2003). Using Video Modeling to Teach Complex Play Sequences to a Preschooler with Autism. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions: Volume 5, Issue No. 1, pp. 5-11.
  • Goldsmith, T.R. & LeBlanc, L.A. (2004) Use of Technology in Interventions for Children with Autism. Journal of Early and Intensive Behavioral Intervention:Volume 1, Issue No. 2, pp. 166-178.
  • Hine, J.F. & Wolery, M. (2006). Using Point-of-View Video Modeling to Teach Play to Preschoolers with Autism. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education: Volume 26, Issue No. 2, pp. 83–93.
  • Hine, J.F. & Wolery, M. (2006). Using Point-of-View Video Modeling to Teach Play to Preschoolers with Autism. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education: Volume 26, Issue No. 2, pp. 83–93.
  • Smith, C., Williamson, R. & Siegel-Robertson, J. (2005). Implementing Technology to Teach Social Skills to Students with Multiple High-Incidence Disabilities. Unpublished University of Memphis research study, 11 pp.
  • Wert, B. Y., & Neisworth, J. T. (2003). Effects of Video Self-Modeling on Spontaneous Requesting in Children with Autism. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions: Volume 5, Issue No. 1, pp. 30-34.
  • Williams, C., Wright, B., Callaghan, G., & Coughlan, B. (2002). Do Children with Autism Learn to Read More Readily by Computer Assisted Instruction or Traditional Book Methods? Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities, Volume 6, pp. 71-91

Amy can be reached via email at ahobbs@autismsociety-nc.org or by phone at 828-236-1547.

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  1. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Interesting article on video modeling. The movement to go visual and stop relying exclusively on verbal teaching methods is one I think you all know I strongly believe in. Think about how you might use video modeling to teach your child a new skill (like introducing himself to a friend before a play date, or entering a classroom on the first day at school). Then try it out with a short video.

  2. Angela Annas says:

    Excellent article. You obviously have done your research and I love the clear instructions!

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