We first used video modeling to help a nine year old boy, whom we’ll call Mannie, learn more appropriate greeting behaviors. When in a store, he would greet his mother’s friends by running up and tickling them and yelling “I’m gonna get you!”
We developed a plan to utilize many of Mannie’s favorite people greeting others in appropriate ways, using language such as, “Hi, how are you doing?” or “Hi, can I have a high five?” These people were videotaped using these simple greetings and appropriate responses in a variety of familiar settings that Mannie often encountered, including Safeway, Tower Records and Best Buy. After the video was filmed, we spent one therapy session with Mannie discussing its content and watching it. Immediately after the first viewing, one of the people in the video knocked on the door of the therapy room and entered. Mannie immediately used the appropriate greeting that had just been modeled on the video. His correct response was videotaped as well and shown to him for reinforcement. The videos were sent home for him to watch at home and practice with his family.
We have also found that video modeling can be used to reduce anxiety by making a new situation less novel. Jim is a high schooler about to embark on his first work experience at the local hardware store. Jim can be somewhat aggressive if not prepared for novel experiences. He is also minimally verbal. At school, his teachers were trying to prepare him for this new vocational experience but using words to describe what was going to happen was not meaningful for Jim. He didn’t even understand the concept of what “work” or a “job” was. In this instance, a video was made to introduce the idea of “work.” It featured important people in his life doing their “jobs” and “working.” These people included his favorite teachers and his parents. Additionally, restaurant workers behind the counter at McDonald’s were also featured. The video was narrated in very simple language, describing that everyone works. Everyone has a job. The people at McDonald’s work. They make the hamburgers. Mr. Lucero works because he teaches the kids in Jimmy’s class. After a brief description/example of people and work, a video of the hardware store where Jim was to work was featured. The front of the store and the area where he was to work were also filmed. The narration then moved on to describing that “Jim is going to work; he will work at the Ace Hardware. He will work with the nails and with the white pipe.” Follow-up tapes of the actual work tasks would be an appropriate way to use a series of video models to positively support a new situation such as Jimmy’s new job.
Another elementary student we worked with loved video modeling so much that he has had over ten videos created to help him learn everything from toileting to increasing the range of foods eaten to participating in PE class to finishing worksheets independently at school. For the toileting task, everything was videotaped, from going into the room to clothing management to actually getting the mechanics of going in the toilet down to washing his hands at completion.
The filming of this “private” behavior took some creative camera angles, but it really allowed this boy to make the associations necessary to understand the whole toileting idea and process. It also highlighted the FXS learning style.
Prior to the video modeling intervention, each of the pieces of the toileting process had previously been taught as individual segments. However, this boy could not put the pieces together into a meaningful “whole” so he had not been able to learn from the segmental, discrete teaching process. In contrast, the video model presents the task in its entirety, thus, the sequential processing and instruction is minimized allowing for the gestalt of the process to be conveyed, thus allowing for optimal learning. This method lead to his acquisition of the skill after only two attempts following viewing of the tape several times. He generalized the skill right away, successfully toileting at home, school and even at a public venue all within the first two weeks of learning how.
As the cases illustrate, video modeling can assist in the acquisition, or improvement, of a variety of social or language skills to specific job or daily living skills. The method requires the upfront planning and time to create a proper model, but in the end is a valuable tool. We have found most of the individuals with FXS love watching the tapes, and their emulation of the model comes readily when the real situation arises. It has proven to be a wonderful tool for skill acquisition and generalization. We plan to continue to use video modeling for multiple clinical issues and love the creative process of implementing this powerhouse strategy.