Using Videos to Support Language and Learning Across the Curriculum

May is Better Hearing & Speech Month and we’re celebrating by sharing timely and relevant information about AAC. Today we welcome Betsy Caporale, speech-language pathologist and AAC specialist to share her post about video modeling interventions.

Video modeling has gained popularity as an intervention for students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) over the past decade. This evidence-based practice has been defined by researchers working with the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder (NPDC) as: “A visual model of a targeted behavior or skill (typically in the behavior, communication, play, or social domains), provided via video recording and display equipment to assist learning in or engaging in a desired behavior of skill.” The advent of tablet computers and smart phones has provided us with low-cost, efficient, and user-friendly equipment for producing and displaying these videos.

As a speech-language pathologist who specializes in augmentative-alternative communication (AAC) and assistive technology (AT), I conduct assessments for students with complex needs, each of whom requires a unique set of tools and strategies to communicate and access the curriculum. I recommend two specific strategies for nearly all the students I assess: visual supports—another evidence-based practice for students with ASD—and video modeling. Visual supports are defined by the NPDC as: “Any visual display that supports the learner engaging in a desired behavior or skill independently of prompts. Examples of visual supports include pictures, written words, objects within the environment, arrangement of the environment or visual boundaries, schedules, maps, labels, organization systems, and timelines.” In my view, videos clearly fit into this category, and can be classified as a visual support. Visual supports, including video, can also be considered AAC tools, as they are used to support understanding of verbal speech and enhance receptive language skills, while at the same time increasing independence.

In this blog, I share ways in which videos can be used as tools to enhance language and learning across environments for students of all ages and abilities, including those with ASD, intellectual disabilities, and complex communication needs.

Teaching Appropriate Behaviors

Students with ASD and intellectual disabilities often demonstrate maladaptive behaviors for a number of reasons, and shaping these into acceptable behaviors can be difficult. Videos are a powerful way to demonstrate appropriate behaviors in an engaging, interactive format. There are a variety of apps available which provide pre-made videos of actors demonstrating targeted behaviors. Although these can be highly effective, I prefer to create my own videos starring the student, peers, and familiar adults. Or better yet, I have the student and peers create the videos themselves, including adult facilitation as needed. By watching videos of familiar people and environments within meaningful, real-life activities students are more easily able to relate to and imitate the targeted behaviors. Most students are also highly motivated to watch videos of themselves, and will likely want to watch them over and over again!


Students with whom I work typically have challenges switching from one task or environment to another. The fear of the unknown, and not understanding what they are expected to do next can be extremely stress-provoking for these students. One way to alleviate this stress is by having them watch videos portraying upcoming events. For some students, this might entail showing a short video before each activity of the day, and for others it might be a single video chronicling all the events of the day. These videos can be filmed in advance, or quickly created on the spot using a smart phone or tablet computer. This offers a dynamic version of a visual schedule.

Learning New Tasks

Students absorb information best when it is presented in a variety of modes, and when learning takes place within a known setting. By watching a video of peers or familiar adults performing tasks in naturally occurring environments, students are provided with concrete examples of exactly how to perform the tasks in real-life situations. Students can view these videos independently, and as frequently as needed.

A child's left hand is holding up an iPad showing a video of gardening. The child is standing in front of a large planter.
Video support being used to help transition and teach during gardening task.

Completing Tasks Independently

Once a student has become familiar with a task by watching a video, he or she can use that same video as a visual support and reminder of the steps needed to complete the task. When used in this manner, the video serves as an activity or task schedule.

Social Communication

Showing videos is a wonderful way for students with complex communication needs to interact with others and share information about their personal life, including:

  • special occasions,
  • preferred interests,
  • favorite activities,
  • current events,
  • community outings,
  • trips/vacations, and
  • friends, family, and pets.

These videos can easily be stored on a personal smart phone or tablet, categorized by date and placed into albums for easy access.

Independent Learning

For students who have difficulty focusing, attending, or processing verbal information during whole class instruction, it is worth considering the option of watching a video. A quick online search is sure to uncover a variety of educational videos on almost any topic for learners of all ages and ability levels. Implementation of this tool can occur in several ways:

  • Watch the video before a lesson to front-load information and familiarize the student with vocabulary.
  • Allow the student to watch the video in lieu of whole-class instruction, which may be overwhelming or above the student’s instructional level.
  • Assign the video, to be watched and discussed with parents, as homework.
  • Watch the video with other students who can serve as peer helpers  tutors.

Favorite resources of mine for educational videos include:

Presenting Information

Creating a video is one way a nonverbal or minimally verbal student can share his or her knowledge about a topic with a teacher. This project may even serve as a presentation to the entire class. The video can be created independently or in collaboration with another student to increase peer interaction and enhance social skills. Video presentations can be made using software such as PowerPoint, Google Slides, or Keynote (for Mac computers). A video might also be a good option for a student who has significant difficulty with written language, offering an alternative format for completing assigned projects using a multimedia approach.

The use of videos is an evidence-based teaching strategy for students with ASD, however, the advantage of videos to support students with other learning differences is evident as well. I shared just a few of the many ways videos can be used to enhance learning for complex learners. I hope that you will be inspired to implement some of the strategies mentioned, and that you will also be inspired to develop new strategies for implementing videos with your students. I look forward to hearing about your ideas!


Wong, C., Odom, S. L., Hume, K. A., Cox, A. W., Fettig, A., Kucharczyk, S., . . . Schultz, T. R. (2015). Evidence-based practices for children, youth, and young adults with autism spectrum disorder: A comprehensive review. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 45, 1951–1966.


Betsy has been working in the field of AAC/AT for over 20 years. In 2006 she earned her Competency Certificate in Communication Assistive Technology Applications from The National Association of State Directors of Special Education and was awarded an Assistive Technology Specialty Certificate in Communication Services from the University of South Florida. She has presented nationally and internationally on topics related to Autism and Complex Communication Needs. She developed and taught an AAC Assessment and Services Certification Course while working for the California Department of Education Northern California Diagnostic Center, certifying over 200 speech-language pathologists. Betsy is the owner of Augmentative Communication Solutions, LLC. 
She has no financial or non-financial disclosures to report.


Jill E Senner, PhD, CCC-SLP

Thank you for reading this blog post. The views expressed in this post are that of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of USSAAC members and board members. No endorsement by USSAAC is implied regarding any device, manufacturer, resource or strategy mentioned. We would love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts with a comment below or send a message through our contact page.

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