Video modeling is an effective therapy method for all children, but particularly children on the autism spectrum. Children watch a video of another child performing a task, and then they learn to imitate what they saw in the video. Some reasons it works are that important features are highlighted (and extraneous stimuli are eliminated) in a video. Also, while we may not always get children to attend to a lesson, they almost always attend to screens. At Building BLOCS, we use video modeling to teach a wide variety of skills–from hand washing, stacking blocks, and playing with trains to teaching Duck Duck Goose and Hide and Go Seek.
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is a popular cartoon on PBS. It teaches children a lesson in each episode through songs and its characters provide a video model of appropriate behavior. The characters practice a new skill, and there is frequently a “strategy song” that helps talk a child through the behavior. Some of the themes are learning to wait, stop to potty, and dressing for the weather.
The episode “Be a Vegetable Taster/Daniel Tries a New Vegetable” is one of our favorites. The strategy song tells children “Try a new food; it might taste good.” (Episode 116) Another common challenge we’ve found when working with children is accepting that playtime is done. Episode 129 “It’s Time to Go/Daniel Doesn’t Want to Stop Playing” teaches children to prepare to transition by choosing one last thing.
Researchers from Texas Tech recently looked into the teaching properties of Daniel Tiger, and found that children’s performance on trying new foods and transitioning when asked improved after watching the respective episodes. You can read that study here.