NADD Bulletin Volume XII Number 1 Article 2

Complete listing

Using Video Modeling to Teach Teenagers with Autism to Request Assistance During Vocational Tasks

Alyssa SooHoo; The College of New Jersey


      Autism is a neurological disorder that is characterized by a lack of communication skills and resistance to daily changes in routine.  Vocational skills are important to individuals with autism because they encourage independence within a community, and aid social and language skills.  Video modeling is an intervention that involves having the participant view a video of a particular skill that is being taught. Video modeling procedures have been used to teach children with autism self-care skills. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of video modeling on teaching teenagers with autism to request assistance when completing vocational tasks.  The results of this multiple baseline study provides evidence that video modeling can be used effectively when teaching individuals with autism to request assistance during vocational tasks.   The findings are significant, showing that video modeling is an effective and efficient intervention that can be used to teach skills that enhance the independence of teenagers with autism, a group for which video modeling is rarely used. 


 Video modeling decreases target behaviors and helps improve various skills. Video modeling has been used to decrease problem behavior and to teach children with autism self-care skills and many other skills such as play and social skills (Carlop & Janice, 1989; LeBlanc & Coates 2003; Buggey, 2005). Video modeling involves showing a videotape of a person performing an act so that a child can imitate the act (LeBlanc et al, 2003; D'Ateno et al, 2003).

Several studies have shown that video modeling has been effective in teaching conversational speech and to increase task fluency (Buggey, 2005; Sherer et al, 2001).  Video modeling has been shown to be effective in teaching five children with autism to answer conversational questions (Sherer et al, 2001).  In the 1995 study by Lasater and Brady, task fluency was improved after a video modeling intervention. One study even demonstrated that video modeling was more effective when compared to live modeling, and that video modeling increases generalization.  Video modeling is a tool that children may find engaging (Goldstein & Lisa, 2004). 

The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of video modeling on teaching teenagers with autism to request assistance when completing a vocational task.  This study is unique because it involves individuals at a crucial age in their lives.  Within adolescence, individuals should become more independent while preparing to contribute to their community. One common deficit seen in adolescents with autism is that after they learn one specific way to do something (e.g., complete a task), if something changes (e.g., run out of supplies), they may not be able to change their response to adapt to the change (e.g., get more supplies, ask someone for help). Thus, other related responses need to be explicitly taught. In this experiment, participants had the opportunity to learn skills that would be helpful in vocational opportunities (i.e., while working at job sites), while additionally learning self-determination and self-care skills.  I hypothesized that after video intervention the participants would

learn a new skill though video modeling intervention

be capable of using the skill taught in future vocational tasks 




Three students, whose names have been changed to maintain confidentiality, participated in this study.  Becky (female, age 15), Lawrence (male, age 16) and Jeff (male, age 16) were all classified with autism and showed deficits in expressive language, socialization and self-care skills.  All participants also attended a concentrated summer program in Applied Behavior Analysis for students with autism.   All participants were students at the Genesis Special Education School in Plainview, New York.



A multiple baseline probe design was used with the three participants to assess the effects of video modeling on vocational tasks.  All participants began baseline at the same time.  After a consistent result was shown, one participant was entered into treatment.  No other participant was treated until the first participant successfully completed the treatment.  Once that was achieved, the second participant was entered into the treatment.  Finally, after the second participant showed an effect of treatment, the third participant entered treatment.  This single subject design ensures that only the intervention is teaching the participants how to properly respond, rather than some extraneous variable or simply passage of time.  Thus, each participant remaining in baseline serves as a control measure.  Each participant had three chances to respond correctly within each session.  A correct response was considered to be a request for help or more supplies.  (ex: “I need more please” or “I need help”). 

Interobserver Agreement

Interobserver agreement was achieved by a having a second observer present to record reliability data.  Interobserver agreement was calculated by dividing the number of agreements by the sum of agreements and disagreements and multiplying this total by 100.  A second observer was present during 30% of the total sessions.  Interobserver agreement was 100% for all participants. 



The task was to assemble a hearing aid dehumidifier that was comprised of three materials.  This included the dehumidifier jar, the actual dehumidifier and a piece of foam that covered the dehumidifier.  The participants were required to assemble the jars when told to “do their work.”  They had to place the dehumidifier in the jar and then lay the foam covering on top.  Each session took place at a table with the materials for the task.  The participants perform this task weekly though a school program that allows them to work in the community.  Thus, the task given was familiar to all the participants.


 Baseline. During baseline, participants were seated at a table and presented with the components of dehumidifiers.   Participants were told to “do your work”.  The experimenter waited until the student completely assembled the dehumidifiers with the supplies given.  The participants were given uneven amounts of the three materials so that they would have parts remaining after assembly.  The experimenter then waited 10 seconds after the task was completed.  If the participant did not respond by asking for more materials or requesting help, materials were then refilled.  This procedure was repeated twice more.  After the three trials the session was ended and the participant returned to his or her classroom. 

Pre-teaching.  In order for the participants to understand how to imitate a video model, two task-specific teaching clips were created for this investigation.  The pre-teaching clips featured the teacher asking another person a question.  The answer to each question was unknown to the participants before viewing the video.  These pre-teaching clips were only a few seconds long.  The participant watched the clip twice.  After viewing the pre-teaching video twice, the teacher asked the participant the same exact question as seen in the video, and allowed time for the participant to supply an answer.  If the participant answered each question correctly, that indicated that she/he understood how to imitate the video model.  If not, the pre-teaching video clip was replayed and the participant was asked the same question until he or she answered it correctly. 

Intervention.  During intervention, the participant sat down at a table and was presented with the dehumidifiers’ components.  A probe trial, where two foam coverings were missing, was then run.  As in baseline, during the probe session the participants were told “do your work”.  The experimenter waited until the student completely assembled the dehumidifiers with the given supplies.  The experimenter then waited 10 seconds after the task was completed.  If the participant did not respond by asking for more materials or requesting help, a task-specific intervention video clip was played.  This clip featured a scene of an adult working on the designated task and requesting help when he/she ran out of supplies. The experimenter then waited another 10 seconds for a response.  Regardless if there was or was not a response materials were given.  This was repeated until the participant displayed the behavior without the aid of the video.  

Pre-Test and Post-Test.  In order to evaluate the video modeling invention, a pre-test and post-test probe was designed using an envelope stuffing task.  This was to test generalization to novel materials.  There was no video shown at this time.  The participants had never been shown a video demonstrating the envelope task.  They were required to fold the letters into thirds and stuff the envelopes.  These tests were to examine whether the participants had learned to ask for other supplies in untrained conditions.  The pre-test took place before the baseline assessment and the post-test was completed after the intervention phase of the study. 




The results of the current study demonstrated that video modeling can be used effectively when teaching teenagers with autism to request assistance during vocational tasks.   Specifically, all three participants learned to request more materials when completing vocational tasks.  Figure 1 demonstrates the significance of the multiple baseline probe design.  As illustrated in the figure, all participants began baseline at the same time, however their behaviors did not increase until the onset of intervention. 

When Becky, the first participant, had a consistent baseline, her intervention was initiated.  As a result of being the first participant, she performed five steady baseline sessions at 0% of correct responses.  Within nine intervention sessions she demonstrated consistent 100% percent correct responding.  Lawrence, second participant, remained in baseline until his tenth session, when Becky’s task behavior showed 100% accuracy. Lawrence reached a consistent 100% accuracy within nine sessions.  Jeff, the third and final participant, performed baseline for nineteen sessions.  He then learned the task rather quickly and had a consistent 100% of correct requests in three sessions. 

The pre-teaching intervention is symbolized by the yellow triangles in figure 1, followed by a task-specific video modeling.  All participants demonstrated the modeled behavior after this intervention. The direct increase in percentage of correct responses reflects the efficiency of the pre-teaching/ video modeling intervention.




































The number of video modeling sessions each participant needed in order to complete the task with 100% correct responses is depicted in figure 2.  This highlights the efficiency of the video modeling intervention.  The rapid acquisition of the target response during the video lesson indicates the effectiveness of the pre-teaching sessions. 




Number of Sessions in which Needed to Watch Video   





Although Becky did not respond directly after baseline, her percentage of correct responses significantly increased after the pre-teaching intervention.  Lawrence, the second participant, confused the intervention video and pre-teaching clips in the beginning of experimentation.   He continually requested “rocks” a word which was stated in the pre-teaching video, but he soon caught on.  Lawrence did not imitate the request shown in the video but verbalized a similar request that was also regarded as correct.  Jeff’s responding increased more rapidly than the other student’s.  Similar to Lawrence, he did not imitate the request as the video had demonstrated.  Instead of requesting help (“I need more please”), he requested the exact materials. 

All participants were successful in improving vocational skills, however each participant responded differently. One of the three participants learned to generalize with novel materials.  This is important because it demonstrates the significance and efficiency of the intervention.    Figure 3 shows the results of pre-tests and post-tests generalization.  Although Becky and Jeff were unsuccessful in increasing percentage of correct responses during post-tests, Lawrence’s improvement from pre-test to post-test is extremely noteworthy. The significant differences in the percentage of correct requests between the pre-test and post-test indicate how he was capable of generalizing with novel materials. 



The results also showed that although the participants were successful in learning the skill with the materials designated in this task, they still needed further instruction to generalize to novel materials. 


The data collected clearly indicates that teenagers with autism may benefit from video modeling interventions.  Although both Lawrence and Jeff made appropriate requests during intervention that were regarded as correct, it is interesting that they both did not use the exact sentences from the intervention video.  This is fascinating since both Lawrence and Jeff had steady baselines that remained at 0% for most sessions.  However, their use of alternative language phrases to request help show that they applied the learned concept rather than just imitating the video directly.  The importance is also seen in Lawrence’s ability to apply the concept learned across different tasks.  This ability to generalize is valuable because it shows the ability of the participant to apply the concept taught in the video model. 

The significance of this study lies in its potential application and use in other aspects of these individual’s lives. Given that the video modeling intervention was effective at teaching this one particular response, it seems likely that this intervention could be used to teach other important social and communicative responses for use in other situations (e.g., when participating in community outings).  This may be especially important during adolescence, an age where individuals are faced with more complicated social interactions.

Another important component of this study was the addition of a unique technique called pre-teaching.  Pre-teaching was necessary within this experimentation to instruct the participants to respond to video modeling intervention.  This was an unexpected addition to the intervention, however it was easy to implement and extremely successful.  These short pre-teaching video clips served as an introduction to video modeling and demonstrated how to correctly imitate a video model.  This technique is a significant advancement when using video modeling because it allows participants at the lower end of the autism spectrum to take advantage of this intervention.   As individuals with autism grow older, it becomes harder for them to fit into society and care for themselves.  This study shows how with a video modeling intervention, a teenager with autism can improve their independent functioning when working on vocational skills.


The results presented in this study are limited by the small sample size of only three participants. Finding participants who are close in age and with similar capabilities is difficult.  However, future studies on video modeling intervention should examine a larger sample of participants to allow for more valid conclusions. In the future, the use of video modeling in teenage interventions should be expanded.  The pre-teaching video protocol should be refined to introduce students with autism to the video modeling intervention and guide them through their first endeavors.  Steps should be taken to teach the students how to apply these skills within other tasks.  Generalization would allow individuals to adjust their skills to new settings and materials. Generalizing would be beneficial to each participant because it would allow them to complete a wider variety of vocational tasks independently. 












Buggey , T. (2005).Video Self-Modeling Applications with Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in a Small Private School Setting. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disorders. 20.1, 52-63.


Carlop, M.H, & Millstein, J.P (1989). Teaching Autistic Children Conversational Speech Using Video Modeling. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. 22, 275-285.


            D'Ateno, P, Mangiapanello, K, Taylor, B. (2003).  Using Video Modeling to Teach Complex Play Sequences to a Preschooler with Autism. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 5, 5-11.


Goldstein, T.R, & LeBlanc, L.A (2004). Use of Technology in Interventions for Children with Autism. Journal of Early and Intensive Behavioral Intervention. 1, 166-177.


LeBlanc, L.A, Coates, A.M, Daneshvar, S, & Carlop-Christy, M.H (2003). Using Video Modeling and Reinforcement to Teach Perspective Talking to Children with Autism. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 36.2, 253-257.

Sherer, M, Pierce, K.L, Paredes, S, Kisacky, K.L, Ingersoll, B, & Schrelbman,                 (2001). Enhancing Conversation Skills in Children with Autism Via Video Technology. 25, 140-158.