Have you ever had a thought like these:
If so, you must be a speech-language pathologist! Time, personnel, and situational constraints affect our work every day. Communication happens throughout the day, but we can’t be there every moment for every student, indeed, not even for some students.
Video modeling is a strategy that can reduce the impact of these constraints on therapy. With internet access via smart phones, tablets and computer available to most students through much of their day and in various environments, it is possible to give them easy access to videos that can support their speech and language development, particularly in the area of pragmatic language.
Video modeling has been shown to be a highly effective tool for teaching language to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. With video, it is possible to isolate a situation or interaction, break it down into its component parts through freeze frames, and narrate it so that the child has more support in understanding the interaction and what others are thinking during the interaction. This article details a few examples of how video modeling may extend the amount of teaching and experience a child can have when acquiring a new skill.
Teaching low-frequency behaviors
Video modeling is an especially effective tool for teaching low-frequency behaviors, such as asking for help in a store. This seems like a simple concept, but it is one that is difficult to practice without causing confusion or embarrassment in a real-life setting. And it doesn’t happen every day. With a video model, you can create the scenario at the pace the child needs, and it can be repeated as often as needed for the child to develop the skill, while you provide intermittent opportunities for real-life practice to see how the skill is developing.
Here are the steps to develop a video model for the low-frequency, but important, skill of asking for help in the store:
Once the video for a low-frequency behavior has been developed, the child can vicariously practice the skill multiple times during the day simply by watching the video. Periodically, it is important to “test” to see whether the child is actually learning the skill by creating a real-life situation where the child has to use the skill (in this case, taking the child to the store to find a particular item).
Teaching social understanding
Creating video models to help a child understand what others are thinking in particular situations is another effective use of video modeling. First, follow the 3 planning steps above. Before beginning to film, it is very important to carefully consider exactly what the social understanding gap is for the child so that it can be clearly demonstrated on the screen. Writing a social narrative and developing a script (again including narration) is critical to success. Keep it positive, short and focused!
Here’s a sample developed to teach a child how to enter a play setting:
One of the difficulties in having a child acquire expressive language skills through use of AAC is that there are few if any models of this alternate language system for the child to emulate and learn from. AAC users have often spent considerable time as passive communicators, and need help to learn how to actively participate in a conversation. Video models can provide models for using a generating device (SGD) for new interactive skills, such as answering questions or responding to comments. For this type of model, one person with whom the child interacts (such as a peer, sibling, or teacher) is on camera, making a comment or asking a question. The child’s response is modeled with the camera “looking” at the device from the device user’s point of view. While the camera “looks on,” a hand or switch scan navigates the device by sequencing icons, going to the correct page, etc. A script might look something like this:
When provided with a video model, the child has the ability to view the video multiple times throughout the day to learn the skill. If you have permission, these videos can be privately posted on YouTube so they can be viewed anywhere that child has internet access., or they can be burned to a DVD to be watched at home or in the classroom. Short videos can also be sent to parents as phone messages. Each viewing of the video is the same as the last, allowing the child to absorb the details that are being taught, rather than being caught off guard by changing people or settings while the skill is still being learned. Thus, the therapist can effectively implement simple therapeutic goals in multiple settings and even on weekends! The time invested in producing the video, which can be considerable at first, is time well-spent, and may even save time over the long term.
Gray, Carol, The Social Stories Fast Course. Presentation for 2002 Autism Summer Institute, August 7, 2002, Columbus, Ohio.
Nikopoulos, Christos, and Keenan, Mickey, Video Modelling and Behavour Analysis: A Guide for Teaching Social Skills to Children with Autism. London; Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2006.