Monday, January 27, 2014

Video Priming for Successful Transitions

Did you know that a process called video priming may help reduce problem behavior during transitions? But what is video priming? How does it help? These are the questions we will focus on today.

What is video priming? Let's start by defining "priming." In everyday-speak, priming means to prepare an object so that we can do something specific with it. In education, it means preparing a person for an event that will happen in the future. This is done by making the upcoming event or activity more familiar and predictable, hopefully reducing stress and anxiety about the upcoming event. (Recall our discussion about how unfamiliarity can lead to problem behavior in people with autism) Essentially, we use priming as a tool to ease the stress of transitions and unfamiliar activities.

When using priming, you'll try to familiarize the person with the upcoming event in a relaxed way. For example, you could look at a book ahead of time that will be read in class, show a visual schedule, practice with new art supplies, and so on. Video priming, as you may have guessed, is using a video recording as a priming tool; you'll show a video of the upcoming activity. Understand that priming is not considered teaching, so a child does not need to master the activity. You just want the child to become familiar with some aspects of the activity in a relaxed, no-pressure situation.

In a research study from the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, Researchers Laura Schreibman, Christina Whalen, and Aubyn Stahmer described how video priming could be used to reduce problem behavior during transitions for three young children with autism.

The participants in this study were three children with autism: Andrew (3 years), Lee (6 years), and Nathan (3 years). These children frequently had problem behavior during transitions situations, such as hitting, screaming, kicking, and dropping to the floor and refusing to get up.

Videos were made for each child. These videos showed the point-of-view of a person going through the transition situation. In other words, the camera filmed the transition situation at the child's eye level (no people were shown in the videos). For Andrew, the video showed the camera going through the rooms of his house to show the routine of getting ready to leave his home. The video showed the toilet (to represent going potty), the sink (to represent washing hands), his shoes (to put on), and the car in the garage (to represent leaving). Videos for Lee and Nathan showed transitioning through either stores in a mall or departments within a large store. The children were shown their videos right before they were supposed to transition. They watched the videos either in their home before leaving to go shopping (Lee and Nathan) or right before it was time to get ready to go (Andrew). The videos of the mall or stores ended with the child's favorite store or department (such as the toy section, followed by the check-out line).

Results indicated a dramatic reduction in problem behavior. Before using the videos, the children had problem behavior about 60% to 70% of the time intervals measured during the transition situations. When using video priming, the problem behavior was gradually reduced to near-zero levels for all of the children.

So, how can you use this strategy with your child or students? You can make a short video showing almost any transition situation, such as an eye level view of walking from the classroom to the cafeteria. An easy way to do this is to record it using a smartphone (just make sure that students are not shown in the video if this against your school's policies). Right before lining up each day at lunch time, you could show the video to the child to prepare him or her for what is coming up. You can also provide a reward or recognition for good behavior during the transition once you arrive. You may want to show the reward in the final location of the video.

An example of a similar video strategy can be found here:

Read more about the study:
Schreibman, L., Whalen, C., & Stahmer, A. C. (2000). The use of video priming to reduce disruptive transition behavior in children with autism. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 2(3), 3-11. Link to more information on this article:

Other reference: Texas Statewide Leadership for Autism, "Texas Guide for Effective Teaching: Priming" -


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