How to use Video Modeling

Studies have shown that video modeling is an evidence based, highly effective, and powerful teaching tool that uses videos of real-life people, scenes, emotions, and perspective taking.


Video Modeling: The Basics

There are some general guidelines that should be reviewed before implementing video modeling techniques with students.

1. Firstly, it is important to remember why we are using videos within our interventions. Video modeling should not be used to teach specific social situations and what is appropriate versus inappropriate or expected versus unexpected. This approach would likely not benefit our students and may instead highlight that our student(s) are doing something wrong that needs to be fixed, which could be harmful to our student’s self-esteem and confidence. Instead, it is important that we, as clinicians, remember video modeling should follow a teaching process that presents a rationale, teaches an underlying intent/emotion, encourages self-reflection, and perspective taking.


2. Video modeling is a complex process that uses social scenes to help increase self-awareness, self-regulation, and perspective taking. It should not be used to show what appropriate and inappropriate behaviors look like to promote and encourage desired behavior.


3. Video modeling is successful when students engage in self-reflection, analysis, and perspective taking. Video modeling is most successful when you guide the student to arrive to a target conclusion independently through self-analysis. Ideally, we do not want to analyze and explain the scenes, we want the student to learn to analyze situations and be able to self-reflect. This is the goal of video modeling.

When students are invited on a journey to learn about typical social interactions, how social communication works, what it entails, and how to talk to people, the focus is placed on self-awareness and self-discovery.


Below, we will review a curriculum that includes a sample sequence of topics where students learn about personal strengths and their unique identity.


Let’s get started by reviewing with the teaching process.

Self-Awareness - Firstly, we need to learn about ourselves. We need to discover the meanings of our own emotions and needs.

Self-Regulation - Secondly, we need to understand that emotions are reactions to memories, our environment, and situation.

Cause and Effect - Thirdly, we need to understand that actions have consequences.

Perspective-Taking - Lastly, we need to learn to use situational and environmental context to read and connect with people.

Self-reflection and self-regulation are the keys that we can use to unlock our ability to “analyze” and “read” situations and people. Once students begin to demonstrate self-reflection and self-regulation, then we can start teaching about specific communication tools, rules, and concepts.

Sample Social Communication Curriculum

What are we doing in our therapy and what are we trying to achieve? Students need to know; they need to know what they are doing and why they are doing it!

We can begin our session by telling our student(s) that we are going to learn about what communication is all about, we are going to learn about each individual in the room and their style of communication. We are going to discover their preferred communication modality, what makes each person feel comfortable and what makes them feel successful when talking to people. We are not trying to teach anyone to change who they are. Not at all. In fact, it would be very wrong for anyone to try to do that. The goal is for the student(s) to learn more about themselves and how unique and beautiful their personality is, to learn about the expectations that people have when talking, and what they can do to understand and adapt to the world around them so that they can feel successful and confident.

It's important to share that they are going to watch videos of other people talking during social scenes that will help them understand social expectations. These videos can also help student(s) find their own conversational style, their preferred communication modality, and help them discover conversational partners who share their interests etc.

Once we establish the prerequisites of the program, we can talk about the purpose of the intervention by discussing the goals of the program. After discussing the importance of emotions, interoception, and self-awareness, student(s) can develop a personal sensory and communication profile. Then, student(s) are ready to move on to the actual video social scenes. 

Sample sequence of topics

  1. Self-Discovery

Reflective self-awareness

  • Discuss student’s expectations with therapy, their goals and priorities and what they want to work on
  • Discuss brain differences (learning about social communication, autism, brain differences and why it may be difficult to connect with people)
  • Discuss neurodiversity
  • Discuss social communication differences and the importance of interoception
  • Discuss social communication differences and accommodations
  • Discuss student’s strengths
  • Sample video, “You are not alone”


Discovering emotions

  • Why do we need emotions? (provide reactions to the world around us)
  • Suggested list of topics to discuss
    • sources of emotion
    • intensity of emotions (rating emotions)
    • what emotions feel like
  • How to tolerate emotions (and not extinguish them)
    • Emotions are responses to our environment and they help us stay safe. We need emotions because they help us read the environment and react appropriately.
    • Emotions can also help us understand our experiences. For example, we would never know that losing a loved one is a sad experience if we never felt sadness. We would never know that falling in love is a joyful experience if we have never felt joy.
    • Feeling emotions help us to categorize our emotions. For example, positive emotions relate to experiences we may look forward to. Negative emotions alert us of unpleasant experiences and things we may want to avoid. Our emotions also allow us to communicate with others


Examples of how emotions help us

  • Fear may act to prevent us from harm
  • Anger may act to fight against setbacks
  • Trust may act to link with people that might assist
  • Disgust may act to abandon what is unhealthy
  • Sadness may act to link with those we love
  • Anticipation may act to look forward and plan
      • When we are able to differentiate between our body sensations, and make sense of what different sensations mean or feel like, we are able to differentiate between emotions. That’s why, our interoceptive system’s ability to distinguish subtle differences is essential for the overall emotional experience.


Discovering personal profile and the unique self


2. Communication Tools

  • Social Awareness (Social Mind): Active and genuine listening & reading nonverbal language)
  • Conversational Strategies (Keeping an approachable persona, Finding a common interest, Body Language, Understanding communication partner’s personality profile)
  • Entering conversations/ ending conversations (Looking at body language and facial cues, Listening to the topic, Showing interest, Paying compliments, Joining an activity, Entering a party, Making plans)
  • Maintaining friendships


3. Special Topics

  • Sarcasm (Bullying, Asking for help, Walking away, Buddy System, Body Language, NOT Fighting Back)
  • Empathy (Empathetic Awareness, Empathetic Listening)
  • Apologies (How to apologize, When not to apologize, Accepting an Apology, Setting Expectations, Showing Appreciation)
  •  Confrontations (Brushing off Opinions, Accepting feedback, Responding online)


Communication Tools:

Note: It is important to emphasize that the areas of Social Mind, Conversational Adaptation, and Maintaining Friendships provide important information and strategies that neurotypical students use in order to connect with each other. It is important to understand how the neurotypical world works and what the expectations are, in order to navigate it better and stay safe. 

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