Video Modeling: Images and Video Footage to Teach Social Skills, and How I Can Help

Therapists at Emerge so often hear parents voice this goal: for their child to form lasting friendships and experience approval from and positive interactions with their classmates or peers. 

The stepping stones to this include learning social rules and expected behaviors, and most times, that involves direct explanations from a parent or professional of the social rules. Also needed are examples that will activate a child’s prior knowledge of the situation and can be called upon in real life, in moments where a social rule at play has gone unnoticed by your child and needs to be pointed out. One of the most effective ways to give your child an example they can easily recall in these moments is through video modeling: watching a video of somebody using an expected or an unexpected behavior in a target social situation that is challenging for your child.

Mother and daughter using a tablet together

If you notice your child struggling with a particular situation, try looking for a video that has already been made through a search on YouTube, such as “social skills compromise” or “social skills turn taking.” We always recommend screening videos before allowing your child to view it to ensure the video is addressing the social rule in an appropriate way. If your child is prone to certain missteps (such as withdrawing from a situation or using aggression to deal with it), and the video contains actions that your child might view as supporting those behaviors, another video might be a better choice.

Another particularly effective way of working on a target behavior is filming your child acting out the behavior with a peer and allowing them to watch themselves perform it! It can also be fun for a child to watch a mock scene of their parents, grandparents, or siblings performing expected behaviors and unexpected behaviors, giving them an opportunity to critique them. 

Consider what your child’s specific interests are, and what would draw them into your video. If Elsa and Anna from Frozen are currently an obsession for your child, but turn-taking is difficult, play dress-up with their sibling and film while having Elsa and Anna take turns with the scissors while they cut out snowflakes. If Star Wars is more your child’s thing, add the soundtrack and some opening yellow text explaining the social rule at the beginning of a social reenactment video of Mom and Dad making a compromise on what to make for dinner. 

Consult with your child’s therapist. They may be able to help you formulate language and scenes to film at home, or locate videos that could provide examples.

Have fun, and please share any ideas you might have with our team!


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