Return to Evidence

Using Video Modeling to Teach Reciprocal Pretend Play to Children with Autism



“The purpose of the present study was to use video modeling to teach children with autism to engage in reciprocal pretend play with typically developing peers. Scripted play scenarios involving various verbalizations and play actions with adults as models were videotaped. Two children with autism were each paired with a typically developing child, and a multiple-probe design across three play sets was used to evaluate the effects of the video modeling procedure. Results indicated that both children with autism and the typically developing peers acquired the sequences of scripted verbalizations and play actions quickly and maintained this performance during follow-up probes. In addition, probes indicated an increase in the mean number of unscripted verbalizations as well as reciprocal verbal interactions and cooperative play. These findings are discussed as they relate to the development of reciprocal pretend-play repertoires in young children with autism.”


Researchers found that play skills of children with autism were acquired quickly with the introduction of only video modeling instruction and no other “live” modeling by therapists. Furthermore, these skills were maintained over time.



In this study, video modeling produced extended sequences of reciprocal pretend play between children with autism and typically developing peers across three commercially available play sets. Prior to video instruction there was little appropriate play between the children... Both pairs of children exhibited rapid acquisition of verbalizations and play actions, and this performance was maintained over time. These acquired chains of play included up to 17 actions with verbalizations embedded into the play scenarios. In addition, these play chains were acquired without the use of response prompting other than the video, and there was no experimenter-delivered reinforcement.

In this study, video modeling was an effective and efficient strategy for teaching sequences of cooperative play. Given the opportunity to observe videos of social interactions in the context of play, these children engaged in reciprocal play interactions with typically developing peers. This represents an important qualitative change in their play behavior. It is promising that these interactive play skills were achieved with relatively short exposure to training and in the absence of response prompting and reinforcement.