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Utilizing Video Self-Modeling Interventions at Home with a Tablet


Video self-modelling is a tool tailored to children on the spectrum to view themselves as authors of their own movie—here’s how you can take advantage of this tool with a tablet.

Utilizing Video Self-Modeling Interventions at Home with a Tablet

Video self-modeling (VSM) is a strength-based intervention modality that allows a child to view him/herself in a “movie” successfully engaging in a behavior or task that was previously challenging. Through scaffolding supports and then editing out those supports, the child can be a positive model in his/her own film. With advances in technology, the entire process from start to finish can be completed on a single device, such as iPads or tablets, where a parent can record, edit, and then allow the child to view the final movie all on the same device.

One of the strongest features of VSM interventions is that it can be implemented with a wide range of target behaviors. VSM has a large evidence base for efficacy with children with autism spectrum disorders, addressing areas such as the use of language, food selectivity, social skills development, and externalizing behaviors.

How to create a VSM video

The following general guidelines are recommended for creating and implementing the intervention:

  1. Choose the specific behavior or deficit to target in the VSM. Target behaviors and goals should be specific and attainable
  2. Create a filming plan on how to capture the desired behavior. Prior to filming, it is recommended to develop a plan on how the child should demonstrate the desired behaviors. This plan may consist of a written list of behaviors or a visual storyboard. It may take extra footage or multiple prompts to capture enough of the desired behavior to edit together into the final video. Note that children often enjoy being involved in this planning step, and the inclusion could help increase motivation
  3. Record the student performing the desired behavior using scaffolding supports as needed. This step is where the student performs the desired behavior while being filmed. This may require role-playing activities, peer modeling, or direct instruction. Keep filming and do not delete footage during this step. Prompts and mistakes can be edited out later in the video creation process
  4. Edit the video to highlight (or create the appearance of) the desired behavior. This can be done using a preferred editing software or application to create the final 2-3 minute video. The final VSM video should depict the desired behavior defined in step one and follow the video plan in step two. You may find it helpful to include a combination of light text, narration, behavior-specific praise, transitions, and special effects with the edited video clips to draw the child’s attention to what behaviors are being performed well in the video
  5. Have the student watch the video for two weeks. It is recommended that the child watch the video at least once a day for 10 weekdays. This portion of the intervention can be implemented by a parent with minimal effort. The child may request to watch their video more than once per day or ask to watch it after the ten days have been completed, which is acceptable if it does not interfere with the child’s functioning

Frequently asked questions

When implementing a VSM intervention for the first time there are often common questions that arise. Parents are encouraged to try a few VSM videos and understand that the planning, taping and editing process becomes more efficient with each VSM intervention completed. With practice, the entire editing process can be completed within 15 minutes. The following is a list of common questions frequently heard when implementing VSM for the first time:

Is my child a good fit for VSM? 

VSM works best with children who are comfortable with or look forward to seeing themselves on video. Children often enjoy collaborating as part of the planning process and being the star of their very own “movie”. 

What kind of behaviors can VSM target? 

While there is research supporting VSM intervention effectiveness in many areas of concern (i.e., language development, academics, functional life skills, mental health, disruptive, and non-compliant behaviors, etc.), the target behavior needs to be clearly identified and designed. Ideally, an operational definition of the target behavior is created before any VSM planning occurs. Additionally, VSM works best when targeting one or two behaviors at a time that can be clearly depicted in the video (e.g., hands-in-lap and eyes-forward). Overly complex, highly abstract, unclear, or too many behaviors may result in an ineffective intervention.

How do I edit a video on a tablet? 

Tablets have user-friendly video editing applications. The software for the iPad can be found by searching “iMovie,” and the application for Windows/Dell can be found by searching “Video Editor” on the search bar. A step-by-step resource for iPad use is provided below. 

What can I do if I’m having trouble editing my video? 

Many editing applications have a troubleshooting or “Help” feature. For example, the “Help” button in iMovie gives detailed descriptions of the application’s features.

What do I do if my child will not cooperate with filming? 

There are a couple of options to promote cooperation. The first option is to include peers, after receiving consent, and create a game out of filming (i.e., recording a scene with a director and movie stars—each child takes a turn being the star, co-star and director). Another option is filming the VSM from a first-person perspective over the student’s shoulder as discussed previously. This can be more effective for some students and lessen possible anxiety of being filmed directly. If the student completely refuses to engage in filming, another similar peer may be filmed from the first-person view instead, but other video clips or photos of the target student can be used in between clips of the desired behavior to make it appear as if the target student is performing the behavior. 

Overall, with the technology advances and increasing accessibility of portable devices like tablets, parents can utilize VSM techniques to allow for a fun, efficacious intervention to be implemented targeting a wide variety of academic or behavioral deficits. 

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How to create your VSM using an iPad

Creating a new movie

  1. Make sure the tablet is on and fully charged
  2. Find the iMovie app on the tablet (purple star icon with camera in the middle)
  3. Open iMovie, select the plus sign or create project
  4. Select movie, video clips and pictures will be on the right side of the screen
  5. Select albums on the left side and choose the applicable album
  6. Select each video or picture to be included in the movie * (See tips box for more options)
  7. On the bottom of the screen click: Create Movie
  8. To change the order of movie clips, press and hold your finger on the selected clip until it isolates the image, you may now drag that piece anywhere you would like to place it in your movie
  9. By touching a video clip or photo on the bottom half of the screen, it should become highlighted in yellow. Your controls will appear at the bottom of the screen beneath the content
    1. Actions (scissors) – Remove or cut out unwanted pieces
    2. Speed (speedometer) – Utilize this to freeze, speed up, or slow down your clip
    3. Volume -Turn your video clip sound up or down
    4. Titles – This gives you the ability to add captions to your clips
    5. Filters – Allows the additional shading of clips, or color changes
  10. To add transitions between clips, select the double facing arrows between the clips until it is highlighted in yellow. Options will appear at the bottom of the screen
  11. Microphone on the left of the clip allows you to add sound or narrate the movie! Just select where you would like to begin and click the microphone to begin recording
  12. The settings wheel, located in the top right corner, allows you to enhance your project with different themes, filters, speed changes, and music. Keep in mind, these additions are to enhance attention, not distract from the movie

Helpful tips

  • When creating a new movie, the content will appear in the editing space in the same order you select them
  • If editing all of the content at once is too overwhelming, you have the option to add videos to the movie one at a time. Pick the picture or video you want to edit first, then add other videos gradually with the plus sign in the top right corner of the screen
  • You can zoom in or zoom out in the editing space. This is useful when moving clips around or trying to find the perfect spot for splitting clips
  • If you change the speed of a clip, there is a setting under the “Project Settings” option (the gear) at the top right corner of the screen that allows you to choose if the pitch of the voices change with the speed (turn this off to keep voices the same regardless of speed)
  • Your movie will automatically save as you work, so there’s no “save” button
  • The “Help” button (the question mark with a circle around it) in the top right corner of the screen explains the various tools as you edit your movie

This article was feature in Issue 120 – Epilepsy: High Risk for ASD Kids

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