Research demonstrates great promise for the use of video-modeling and self-modeling. In one study, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of these two techniques involving 63 participants on the autism spectrum. Results suggest that video-modeling and self-modeling are effective interventions for addressing social-communication skills, behavioral functioning, and functional skills in kids and teenagers with AS and HFA. Specifically, these interventions promote skill acquisition – and the skills acquired are maintained over time and transferred across the individual and settings (i.e., they appear to be effective interventions for kids across the autism spectrum from early childhood to the teenage years). According to the study, video-modeling and self-modeling produced rapid increases in targeted skills with a median intervention length of 9 video viewings. Also, the median duration of the video clips shown to participants was only 3 minutes.
Video-modeling can also be used with low-frequency behaviors (i.e., behaviors that rarely occur), or behaviors that were once mastered – but are no longer. In this case, the child is videotaped while engaging in a low-frequency behavior (e.g., playing with peers), and then shown the video to demonstrate how successful he or she was in engaging in appropriate social interaction. Researchers have used this version of video-modeling to increase “responding behaviors” in kids on the autism spectrum. The kids in the study watched videotapes of themselves answering questions while participating in play activities. Even though answering questions was a low-frequency behavior for these kids, the videos were edited (i.e., non-responses were edited-out) to depict the kids as fluent in their responses. The technique produced rapid increases in unprompted verbal responding.
Video-modeling can also be used when AS and HFA children already possess the necessary skills in their behavioral repertoire, but are unable to put them together to complete an activity. For example, a youngster may have the ability to look at his Math assignment, find his Math book, work on the assigned Math problems, and turn his homework in to the teacher – but can’t perform these skills in the proper sequence. This form of video-modeling would involve videotaping the child engaging in each of these tasks, and then splicing the segments together to form the proper sequence. The same technique can be used with typical social interaction sequences. For example, the youngster could be videotaped demonstrating three different skills: starting a conversation, maintaining the conversation in a reciprocal manner, and appropriately terminating the conversation. The three scenes could then be blended together to demonstrate one successful, fluent social interaction.
Lastly, video-modeling can also be used when AS and HFA kids need additional support to complete tasks successfully. The concept of “hidden supports” is an important factor here. For example, the youngster may be videotaped interacting with his friends while the parent provides assistance through cueing and prompting. The “parent prompt” is edited-out (i.e., hidden) so that when the youngster views the video segment, he sees himself as independent and successful.
The science behind the effectiveness of video-modeling is strong. In numerous studies, it has been shown to be the most effective method for teaching social skills and target behaviors to kids on the autism spectrum, such as:
- academic skills
- communication skills
- daily living skills
- functional skills
- perception of emotion
- perspective taking
- play skills
- social initiations
- social interaction behaviors
- spontaneous requesting
Video-modeling can teach target behaviors very quickly compared to other methods, and the behavior is said to be "generalized," (i.e., the youngster is able to exhibit the behavior in real-life situations that are similar to the research scenario). At the same time, video-modeling has been proven to decrease certain problem behaviors (e.g., aggression, tantrums, and other off-task activities).
There are several key characteristics of kids with AS and HFA that favor the use of video-modeling over other social-skills training methods, for example:
- ability to process visual information more readily than verbal information
- avoidance of face-to-face interactions
- over-selective attention, making them very prone to distraction
- preference for visual stimuli and visually-cued instruction
- restricted field of focus
Because they can be replayed over and over as needed without additional cost, videos have been in use as a social-skills training tool for decades. The same entertainment appeal that videos hold for “typical” kids applies to AS and HFA kids as well – only much more so! Since kids on the autism spectrum respond more readily to visual cues, videos have a more powerful effect on them (i.e., are more motivating and provide more positive reinforcement).Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management