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Parent Skill Acquisition through Video Modeling


Discover how video modeling has had a positive and empowering influence on parent-child therapy interactions.

Parent Skill Acquisition through Video Modeling

In recent years, the use of telehealth services in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has grown substantially. The current health crisis related to COVID-19 and social distancing recommendations shifted many ABA providers toward telehealth to deliver services remotely to children and their family members. 

From our recent experience as behavior analysts using this method as the sole means for service delivery, we have witnessed an escalated adoption rate and unique evolution of video modeling for parents and caregivers. The use of video modeling within telehealth programming allows practitioners to not only continue providing treatment to individuals and their families while following social distancing guidelines, but it also allows for parents and caregivers to acquire skills from viewing video modeling assignments with their children.

Adapting to the new world

Since the onset of the pandemic, we have increasingly integrated parents and caregivers into the delivery of ABA in novel ways. Parent or caregiver mediated therapy naturally increased with limited face to face therapy. Interestingly, we have observed a change in caregiver behaviors in how they interact with their children during virtual therapy visits. Specifically, parents are watching video models with their children and actively imitating skills demonstrated in the video model. In this manner, parents have also undergone behavior shaping contemporaneous with their child. Numerous observations from our own practices testify to this process. 

Parents’ engagements

For instance, we have observed one parent change the way she provided prompts and directions to her child after viewing a video model targeting a specific request provided to a child by a therapist. Having observed the parent’s words, volume, tone, and cadence of her language had drastically changed, we asked her why she thought her communication with her child was different now. She said she was imitating the videos her child watched and he was responding to her just like he responded to us when we were in the home prior to transitioning to telehealth-only services. Some of these responses from the child included looking at the parent in the face, imitating her actions, having fewer challenging behaviors, and following her vocal instructions to complete one-step actions.


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As a further benefit of the video modeling sessions, the parents are not only developing their own ability at modeling appropriate behaviors, but are increasingly becoming more active participants in their child’s therapy. We have observed this spike in engagement by parents to be empowering. Parents view themselves as gaining some measure of control over a sometimes challenging or chaotic situation.

Introduction to Gemiini systems therapy

In response to limited face to face therapy sessions, we boosted our use of Gemiini Systems’ therapy software. Gemiini provides on-demand “discrete video modeling” presenting repeated learning opportunities, similar to a behavior therapist providing repetition of concepts via flashcards, objects, and modeling actions. Discrete video modeling provides clear examples with minimal words. In the example with the parent above, her child watched a discrete video model of the concept “stand up” and the child watched this video on a loop daily in the morning and in the evening. During our telehealth session we observed the parent clearly say to her child, “Stand up,” after getting his eye contact while providing the model to stand up as seen in the discrete video model.

Our behavior therapy team members have shared their observations of parents and caregivers changing the speed, repetition, number of words, and tone they use when providing directions to their child. We have also seen caregivers are more successful in gaining their child’s attention by modeling skills in the same way they are presented during the video models, increasing the number of appropriate and functional interactions as well as providing positive reinforcement in the form of improved eye contact and more frequent social smiles between the child and caregiver. In addition, we have used video modeling showing the child’s actual engagement in the skill, and later integrated those videos into the child’s assignments.

Although we have observed gains in engagement and skill acquisition from video modeling in caregivers, further research is needed in this area. Given the growing need for non-face to face therapy modalities, both at the present and continuing after the crisis, we look forward to parents and therapists working together to better understand the most effective strategies for family involvement via telehealth service.

This article was featured in Issue 118 – Reframing Education in the New Normal

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