Video Self-Modelling for Children & Adults living with a disability

It would be reasonable to say that many of us are very connected with technology. The power of tablet computers and smartphones is that beyond their ‘standard’ uses that we might readily identify they can also be used as a powerful education tool to teach skills.

One example is through using the built-in camera to capture video. There is increasing evidence that self-modelling using video can be even more effective than use of more traditional educative approaches such as interactive role play and social stories. Video Modelling is a learning tool in which desired behaviours are taught by watching a video demonstration of a desired behaviour and then re-enacting or imitating the behaviour of the model. Video modelling has been used successfully  with children and adults with intellectual disabilities to teach many new skills, including interpersonal and social skills. In recent years it is also being increasingly used in a sports psychology context, to encourage athletes to engage more fully with the visualisation of skills and the enhancement of self-belief.

Research suggests that this type of skills program is most powerful when the skill being presented in video format is being modelled by the person themselves. This may mean that for a skill which is not yet fully acquired, some ‘editing’ may be of advantage to give the illusion of a successful modelling experience, in order to reinforce the desired learning outcome.

It is very important that non-preferred behaviours or ‘failures’ are not included in the final video modelling product. With the use of simple editing software apps (e.g. iMovie) to edit parts that you don’t want to model, you can create a really engaging video modelling intervention that is tailored to an individual and genuinely motivating.

Tips for developing a VSM (video self-modelling) program include:

  1. Ensure you have the person’s consent
  2. Identify a specific skill you wish to teach
  3. Undertake a task analysis to clearly establish what skills the person already has in relation to the desired skills outcome – your skills program should aim ‘higher’ than the existing skill level but not be unrealistic in the desired level of skills acquisition
  4. Write a script or create a ‘story-board’ of the idea – get a sense of what you hope to capture, what angles you might need to shoot from, who might need to be included, what settings/locations, etc.
  5. Consider how to generalise the skill across multiple settings – e.g. you may need to make more than one video of the same skill, but applied in different settings
  6. Make the video
  7. Edit it to provide the most clear demonstration of the desired skill possible
  8. Watch the video regularly (over a 2-3 month period)
  9. Practice the targeted skills which are shown in it – ‘prime’ the experience by watching the video first
  10. Reflect on any skills acquisition (or not) – review whether the video need to be remade in an alternate context or because the desired skill was ‘beyond’ the person at this time

Examples of possible video self-modelling skills programs include:

  • Managing emotions, e.g. keeping calm
  • Learning about inter-personal boundaries
  • School based skills
  • Community based skills
  • Physical activities/skills
  • Household tasks
  • Personal care, e.g. brushing teeth

Author: Benjamin Coombe is a Practice Leader with Samaritans Clinical Services Unit. The Clinical Services Unit provide a range of services including behaviour support and skills development for adults, children and young people with intellectual disability, mental health, or behaviour support needs in a variety of settings.