Using Video Technology to Support Autistic Individuals - Autism Awareness

Using Video Technology to Support Autistic Individuals

Video technology can be a powerful teaching tool for autistic people. The use of visual supports is a well-established and commonly used strategy with families and professionals. Using video technology for modeling takes visuals to the next level by combining the visual supports strategy with technology to create an even more effective teaching tool. Video technology is readily accessible through iPhones and iPads, easy to use, and inexpensive. It can be used with a wide range of ages from preschool children to adults to teach a variety of skills in a multitude of settings such as school, home, community and the workplace. There are numerous studies to support the use of video modeling, an evidence based intervention, with autistic individuals.

Television watching skills don’t need to be pre-taught therefore most children will already have the necessary skills to engage in using video technology. It can be a great way to teach new skills to learners who have limited access to other means of instruction such as print materials or who struggle with more traditional methods of instruction. Difficulties with auditory processing often make the spoken word more challenging to understand and process so many learners do better by watching rather than listening.

Videos can also provide predictability and give the viewer control over the speed, repetition and volume of what they’re watching. Videos take away the element of surprise that happens when interacting with people. There are no distractions or changes to deal with so the focus can be on learning the skill rather than dealing with all of the variables humans introduce everyday. Video technology also provides built-in borders – the edges of the iPad or computer screen gives a visual parameter of what to look at unlike being in a room and not knowing where to focus attention.

Types of Video Modeling

Basic Video Modeling (BVM)

The learner watches a video of an actor other than themselves appropriately demonstrating a specific skill or routine. The actor can be a parent, sibling, peer or teacher. Prior to filming, the actor is told what to do and say during the recording process. BVM can help increase independence with daily living skills and can increase a learner’s ability to remain calm during transitions. It can also lessen anxiety with unfamiliar situations like medical appointments or new events.

Video Self-Modeling (VSM)

VSM stars the learner demonstrating the target skill or routine. Watching a video of oneself performing a skill or task correctly is reinforcing and builds confidence. Psychologist Albert Bandura found that the most effective models are those that are most similar to the individual. Whenever possible, film the individual but if you can’t, then use a model that is similar to the learner.  Research shows that watching oneself on a video can increase the person’s ability to attend to the video. Another benefit is the “movie star” effect – many children increase their ability to demonstrate a skill just because they know they are being filmed. My son is like that!

Feedforward is another type of VSM where the learner sees himself demonstrating a skill that is slightly beyond his current capabilities. This type of video can be used if the learner:

a) can only demonstrate some but not all of the behaviors needed to perform the target skill
b) is only able to perform the skill at a low level of mastery
c) needs support to demonstrate the behaviors required to perform the skill

Point-of-View Modeling (PVM)

This is similar to Basic Video Modeling in that you are recording a person other than the learner , but the recording captures exactly what the learner will see through their own eyes while demonstrating the skill or routine. Because the video shows the skill from the learner’s point of view, the video only includes the model’s hands as well as any social partners that are necessary for the skill to be demonstrated.

PVM videos are an effective way to teach any new skill that the learner can’t demonstrate yet without a substantial amount of support from another person because the learner isn’t the one performing the skill in the recording.

My two adult children access YouTube videos frequently, which provides the user point-of-view, when they are going to a new place or activity. For example, my son watched every ride for Disneyland ahead of time so he would know what to expect when he got there and what the ride looked like once you were on it in motion.

The 10 Steps for Video Modeling

  1. Identify the skill or routine you would like to target.
  2. Identify and assemble the materials needed.
  3. Do a task analysis of the skill or routine and collect baseline data. (In other words, break the skill down into steps and observe each step.)
  4. Make a plan for the filming of the video. (Type of modeling, language used, who will film)
  5. Record the video
  6. Edit the video footage if you need to.
  7. Show the video to the person.
  8. Facilitate skill development after viewing the video. (Continue support with visuals, nonverbal prompts)
  9. Monitor the person’s progress to see if changes need to be made.
  10. Problem solve if progress is too slow. (Are you showing the video often enough? Is it too long? Is it the wrong type of video modeling? Does the skill have too many steps that are beyond the person’s reach?)

There are many areas where video modeling can be used such as communication, teaching voice volume, identifying emotions, how to self-regulate through breathing, using a locker, crossing the street, job interview skills – the list is endless. The good news is there is lots of support on how to do video modeling successfully – for example, check out YouTube. Look at our book links below this post to find more resources to read on this valuable topic.


McGinnity, K., Hammer, S., Ladson, L. 2011. Lights! Camera! Autism! Using Video Technology to Enhance Lives. Wisconsin: Cambridge Review Press

Murray, S., Noland B. 2013. Video Modeling for Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. London: Jessica Kingsley Press


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  1. Глеб says:

    The goals and uses of technology are very different for adolescents and young adults. These tools can be very empowering for adolescents transitioning into young adulthood, especially for individuals with autism. Technology can help your child become more independent, work on his or her challenges and improve upon his or her strengths. Likely the most common use of technology to help children and adults with autism is to improve communication skills. There are hundreds of apps and many built-in features of these devices that can help support individuals with autism at all levels and abilities. One app for example could be geared toward a nonverbal child or adult, while another can help with social cues for an individual with strong verbal communication skills. 

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