Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder may have to cope with considerable deficits in social and communication skills and a tendency to exhibit inappropriate behaviors in social situations. Social Skill Builder computer software is built on the principle that children, particularly those with ASD, learn social skills best through video modeling--observing appropriate behaviors on a monitor and, through repetition, learning to model those behaviors in day-to-day, real-life situations.
The science behind the effectiveness of video modeling is strong. In numerous studies, comprising decades of scientific research, video modeling has been shown to be the most effective method for teaching social skills and target behaviors to children with autism.
Research on children with autism has shown that video modeling can be very effective in improving the following skills and target behaviors:
Video modeling can teach target behaviors very quickly compared to other methods, and the behavior is said to be "generalized," (i.e., the child 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, including aggression, tantrums and other off-task activities.
There are several key characteristics of children with autism that favor the use of video modeling over other learning techniques. A study entitled Video Modeling: Why Does It Work for Children with Autism? (Corbett & Abdullah, 2005) lists these key characteristics:
Because they can be replayed over and over as needed without additional cost, videos have been in use as a teaching tool almost since the advent of motion picture technology. The same entertainment appeal that videos hold for mainstream children applies also to autistic children--only much more so. Since children with autism respond more readily to visual cues, videos and television have a more powerful effect on them. Videos are more motivating and provide more positive reinforcement to autistic children.
Below is a partial list of research studies culled from academic journals and other sources, showing how video modeling has been used to teach children with autism a range of positive behaviors and social skills. Following that list are the abstracts for each study.
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.
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.
Research Study Abstracts (Listed by Name of Primary Author)
Increasing Social Engagement in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders Using Video Self-Modeling (Bellini, et al., 2007)
An emerging body of research demonstrates the effectiveness of video self-modeling (VSM) in addressing social, communication, and behavioral functioning of children with autism spectrum disorders. The primary purpose of this study was to examine the benefits of a VSM intervention in increasing the social engagement of young children with autism spectrum disorders. The study expands previous research on VSM by measuring social interactions with same-aged peers in a natural setting rather than with adults in a controlled clinical setting. Intervention and maintenance effects were measured in addition to the social validity of the VSM procedure. The results of the VSM intervention are provided, and implications for practice and future research are discussed.
Using Video Modeling to Teach Perspective Taking to Children with Autism(Charlop-Christy, et al., 2003)
Perspective taking refers to the ability to determine mental states of others in order to explain or predict behavior. In typically developing children, this skill appears around age 4 years (Baron-Cohen, Leslie, & Frith, 1985), but it is delayed or absent in children with autism. In the present study, video modeling was used to teach perspective taking to three children with autism. A multiple-baseline design across children and within child across tasks was used to assess learning. Generalization across untrained similar stimuli was also assessed. Video modeling was a fast and effective tool for teaching perspective-taking tasks to children with autism, resulting in both stimulus and response generalization. These results concurred with previous research that perspective taking can be taught. Unlike other studies, however, wider ranges of generalization were found.
A Comparison of Video Modeling with In Vivo Modeling for Teaching Children with Autism (Charlop-Christy, et al., 2000)
The present study was designed to compare the effectiveness of video modeling with in vivo modeling for teaching developmental skills to children with autism. A multiple baseline design across five children and within child across the two modeling conditions (video and in vivo) and across tasks was used. Each child was presented two similar tasks from his or her curriculum; one task was used for the video condition, while the other was used for the in vivo condition. Video modeling consisted of each child watching a videotape of models performing the target behavior, whereas in vivo modeling consisted of the children observing live models perform the target behavior. After the observations, children were tested for acquisition and generalization of target behaviors. Results suggest that video modeling led to faster acquisition of tasks than in vivo modeling and was effective in promoting generalization. Results are discussed in terms of video modeling's motivating and attention maintaining qualities.
Video Modeling: A Window into the World of Autism (Corbett, 2003)
Video modeling is a well-validated behavioral intervention documented in the behavioral sciences. The methodology appears particularly beneficial for children with autism. The underlying theoretical explanations are posited and discussed. A single case study is presented using video modeling to improve the perception of emotion in a child with autism and mild mental retardation. The subject was shown a series of video tapes of typically developing children engaged in a variety of play and social scenarios showing four basic emotions: happy, sad, angry and afraid. The preliminary results, based on behavioral and neuropsychological data, demonstrated video modeling to be an efficacious intervention for the attainment and generalization of emotion perception. The acquisition of skills using video modeling is often very rapid compared to other methods of intervention and requires limited time and personal resources to implement. The skill is then maintained with careful behavioral programming, which includes stable attainment of mastery and built-in generalization conditions (e.g., multiple exemplars). Further, video modeling appears to be particularly useful in eliciting generalized responses across behaviors and stimuli that is corroborated by improvement on neuropsychological instruments. Implications for current and future research are discussed.
Video Modeling: Why Does It Work for Children with Autism? (Corbett, et al., 2005)
Video modeling is a well-validated intervention documented in the behavioral sciences. It has been used to target a variety of behaviors across many areas of functioning including language, social behavior, play, academics and adaptive skills. The methodology appears particularly efficacious for children with autism. In this review of research applications of video modeling, we explore several plausible explanations that contribute to the unique benefits of television/video methodology. We discuss the specific characteristics of autism that may provide a rationale for using visually cued instruction that restricts the field of focus while not imposing too much demand on social attention or interaction. The unique aspects of video presentation are presented within a social learning context (Bandura, 1977, 1986). We also discuss additional explanations pertaining to the features video offers, such a restricted field of focus, repetitive presentation of models and situations, and a context that is typically associated with recreation and is thus viewed with greater receptivity and motivation.
Using Video Modeling to Teach Complex Play Sequences to a Preschooler with Autism (D’Ateno, et al., 2003)
The identification of efficient teaching procedures to address deficits in imaginative play skills, which are commonly seen in children with autism, is a challenge for professionals who are designing treatment programs. In the present study, video modeling was used to teach play skills to a preschool child with autism. Videotaped play sequences included both verbal and motor responses. A multiple-baseline procedure across three response categories (having a tea party, shopping, and baking) was implemented to demonstrate experimental control. No experimenter-implemented reinforcement or correction procedures were used during the intervention. Results indicated that the video modeling intervention led to the rapid acquisition of both verbal and motor responses for all play sequences. This procedure was shown to be an efficient technique for teaching relatively long sequences of responses in relatively few teaching sessions in the absence of chaining procedures. In addition, the complex sequences of verbal and motor responses were acquired without the use of error-correction procedures or explicit experimenter-implemented reinforcement contingencies.
Use of Technology in Interventions for Children with Autism (Goldsmith, et al., 2004)
A growing number of studies have investigated diverse applications of technology-based interventions with children with autism. The purpose of this paper is to review the growing empirical support for the efficacy of technology-based interventions with children with autism and to recommend future directions for research. This review will focus on five examples of technology introduced as a temporary instructional aid to be removed once the goal of behavior change has been met: (a) tactile and auditory prompting devices, (b) video-based instruction and feedback, (c) computer-aided instruction, (d) virtual reality, and (e) robotics. Future directions for research and practice with each technology are discussed.
Using Point-of-View Video Modeling to Teach Play to Preschoolers with Autism(Hine, et al., 2006)
This study evaluated the effectiveness of point-of-view video modeling in teaching selected toy-play skills to two preschoolers with autism. This type of modeling involved the experimenters carrying or holding the video camera at eye level (from the child’s perspective) and without recording models (persons) to show the environment as a child would see it when he or she was performing the targeted skills. The researchers used a multiple-probe design across two children and two behaviors to evaluate the effect of the point-of-view modeling on the children’s acquisition and maintenance of play actions. They used generalization probes to assess the degree to which the participants used the new skills across novel toys and during classroom activities. The results indicated that point-of-view modeling was an effective tool for teaching toy-play actions to preschoolers with autism. The authors discuss the extension of current video modeling research and implications for home and school interventions.
Effects of Video Modeling and Video Feedback on Peer-Directed Social Language Skills of a Child with Autism (Maione, et al., 2006)
Identifying practical strategies for teaching children with autism to use social language with their peers is a challenge for professionals designing treatment programs. The purpose of this multiple baseline study was to assess the effectiveness of video modeling and video feedback for teaching a child with autism to use social language with typical peers during play. Video modeling was effective in increasing social language in two of the three activities. Video feedback and prompting were required in the third activity to effect a stable rate of increased social language. Unscripted verbalizations predominated across all three activities, as did initiations. The results are discussed with reference to previous research, future directions, and implications for practice.
Implementing Technology to Teach Social Skills to Students with Multiple High-Incidence Disabilities (Smith, et al., 2005)
The purpose of this study was to determine if the use of computer assisted instruction used along with direct instruction and role-playing would help improve the student’s social skills. First, the BASC-2 assessment was administered to determine the deficient social skills in the participants. Next, the results of this assessment were used to develop a series of lesson plans geared towards improving those social skills deficits. The next step included collecting baseline data on social behaviors that impacted the participants’ learning. These behaviors were chosen based upon results of teacher observations. Then, participants completed a 5 week series of social skills classes and engaged in the computer software programSchool Rules, Volumes I & II to help in learning and improving social skills. The results from the first study from the participation in the social skills instruction classes and the engagement in the social skills software School Rules showed improvement in the observed behaviors of three of the five students.
Effects of Video Self-Modeling on Spontaneous Requesting in Children with Autism(Wert, et al., 2003)
Video self-modeling (VSM) is a promising intervention to teach new skills and improve the use of existing skills in young children with autism. VSM includes observation and imitation of one’s self on videotape that records specific desirable child behaviors. The purpose of this study was to test the effectiveness of VSM for training young children with autism to make spontaneous requests in school settings. Four young children with autism participated. Experimental control was demonstrated using a multiple-baseline design across participants. Introduction of VSM led to a large increase in requesting behavior in all four children. VSM was effective in causing an increase in spontaneous requesting in young children with autism.
Do children with autism learn to read more readily by computer assisted instruction or traditional book methods? (Williams, et al., 2002)
The study evaluates the progress of eight children aged 3-5 years with autism attending a specialist teaching unit in their development of reading skills in two conditions: computer instructed learning and book based learning. The authors developed a direct observation schedule to monitor autistic behaviours using computerized techniques. The children were matched by age, severity of autistic symptomatology and number of spoken words. They were initially randomly allocated to the computer or book condition and crossed over at 10 weeks. All of the children spent more time on task in the computer condition than in the book condition. By the end of the study after computer assisted learning, five of the eight children could reliably identify at least three words. It was found that children with autism spent more time on reading material when they accessed it through a computer and were less resistant to its use.