What is Video Modeling?

Video modeling is a fun instructional technique where the child watches a video of himself or herself doing a desired behavior or skill. For example, let’s say Johnny always throws a fit on the way from the bus to his classroom at the beginning of each day. You could use video modeling to show Johnny a video of himself walking all the way from the bus to the classroom without having a meltdown and without any assistance.

You may be asking, how is this possible? If I could take a video of Johnny doing this, I wouldn’t need the video!

Well, the power of technology has allowed us to create these videos through the magic of editing, and I’m going to show you how!

You take a video of a child doing a skill and you give him as much help as you need to so he can get through it. Then, you edit out all of the parts where you had to help him. The end result is a video that looks like he did it all by himself even if he didn’t.

Listen to the Audio Version Here or scroll down to keep reading:

Does Video Modeling Work?

The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) website has links to a systematic review where researchers looked at all of the research on video modeling for children with autism. Here’s what they found:

“Overall, results of the review indicated positive gains in social-communicative skills, functional skill, perspective-taking skills, and problem behavior. However, the authors cautioned that: “A small pool of studies was reviewed, and treatment effects were not measured. Consequently, it is unclear at this time whether video modeling is more or less effective than other models of instruction for learners with autism, and too soon to make detailed recommendations for practitioners” (p. 41).”

Furthermore, video modeling works the same way that social stories work. (For more information on using social stories with children with language disorders, click here!) And social stories have been shown to be helpful for children with autism, learning disabilities, cognitive impairments, and language impairments.

What Can You Use Video Modeling For?

Video modeling is used to teach a child to do a new skill or to perform a current skill at a higher level or with fewer supports. This can be applied to behaviors that you would like the child to learn as well as behaviors that you would like the child to stop. Here are some examples of challenges that can be addressed using video modeling:

  • How to help a child get through transitions without melt downs
  • How to help a child learn to use communication to get his needs met instead of inappropriate behaviors (like saying hi instead of hitting a kid)
  • How to help a child participate in a routine activity independently
  • How to help a child respond to social situations appropriately, such as responding to others
  • How to help a child use language appropriately in social situations

How to Use Video Modeling

Step One: Choose a Target

The first thing you will need to do is choose a target behavior. What skill do you want the child to learn how to do? Map out exactly what you will want the child to do in steps.

Step Two: Video Tape the Target

Next, you will want to video tape the child doing that skill. Since the child cannot actually do the skill yet (or at least not independently), you will need to stage the situation so that he is most likely to do it on his own and then provide prompts, guidance, and support as needed. You may have to break the overall skill down into smaller steps and record each step separately. Break it down into the smallest parts necessary to make it look like the child is doing it on his own.

For example, if the target behavior is cleaning up the play room, you may set it up so that the child is holding a toy and the basket is right in front of him, then you video tape him putting that one toy into the basket. Then, you have to take another video of him putting a second toy in the basket. Don’t expect him to do the whole skill in one go.

I recommend that you video tape the entire process because we will be editing it down later.

I use my smart phone to video tape but you could use any device that you have to record video.

Step Three: Edit the Video Down

This is probably the intimidating part for you. Well don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be!

First, upload the video to your computer. If you’re using your camera, you should have a cord that will connect to your computer and allow you to upload. If you used a smart phone, you should be able to email the video to yourself and then open it on a computer.

If you used an iPhone or iPad to record the video, you can download the iMovie app from the app store and edit it right on your device, no need to transfer to your computer unless you really want to.

Once you get it on the computer, open the video in whatever video editing software your computer already has. Most computers come with some basic video editing software. If you cannot find any such software on your computer, you can search the internet for “free video editing software”. Just make sure what you download is legitimate and not a scam. I use Camtasia Studio but that is a paid video editing software.

Once you’ve put the video into your video editing software, you’ll want to edit out (delete) any parts where it looks like you’re helping the child. You should be left with a video that just includes the parts where the child did the skill independently. It may be a bit choppy but don’t worry, the child won’t mind. He’ll be too focused on the fact that he’s watching himself do something awesome!

Here’s a video that will show you how to edit down the videos:

Would you like the step-by-step instructions for how to edit down a video to use for video modeling? Click this button to download my free PDF guide to creating video modeling videos:

Click Here Download: How to Create and Use Video Modeling Videos Worksheet

How to Use Video Modeling in Instruction

Once you get your video done, it’s time to show it to the child.

Step One: Show the Video at a Different Time

Show the child the video during a low-stress time that is not near the time that you want the target skill to occur. Show the video and then talk to the child about what happened in the video. Have the child watch the video as many times as he wants. Show the video to him several different times (different days) before attempting the actual routine with it.

Step Two: Show the Video Right Before the Expected Behavior

Once the child is familiar with the video, you’ll want to try to use it to make that actual routine or activity go smoothly. Show the child the video right before you are going to expect him to do it. For example, if the video is about getting the child off the bus, you will get on the bus with the video and show him the video before you unbuckle him.

Step Three: Show the Video While the Child is Doing the Behavior

As soon as you’ve shown the video to the child, tell him that it’s time to do what he saw in the video. Help him go through the steps just as they were presented in the video. If it’s at all possible, let him watch the video of him doing the skill while he’s actually doing it. In our example above, this would look like you holding the iPad with the video playing in front of him as he walks down the hallway toward his classroom.

Step Four: Reinforce and Practice!

Reinforce any success that the child had during the activity and then practice, practice, practice. You will want to have the child continue watching the video multiple times per day as well as right before and during the activity. Keep doing this until the child can complete the behavior successfully.


There you have it! That’s all the steps to use video modeling. Just like any therapy technique, this isn’t guaranteed to work for every child and on every behavior, but it’s definitely a great tool to try, especially if you have a low functioning kiddo who isn’t responding well to more traditional instruction.

If you’d like to download my PDF guide to creating and using Video Modeling videos, please click the button below:

Click Here Download: How to Create and Use Video Modeling Videos Worksheet

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