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Social Stories Intervention

Article: Social Story Effectiveness on Social Interaction for Students with Autism: A Review of the Literature. By Karal and Wolfe, in Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 2018, 53(1).

The authors mention, again, that even though IDEA has recommended focus on social skills training in schools, schools seem to be struggling to move beyond the act of adding goals in social skills training to the IEP, and actually provide adequate social skills training. The authors suggest that providing more high-quality resources to professionals might do the trick. To that end, they examined an intervention called Social Stories developed by Carol Gray back in the early 90's. I have never used Social Stories, but I am very aware of them. Tony Atwood seems to be pretty crazy about them too, so there's that.

This study was a meta-analysis (a study of studies) of Social Stories research which was trying to find to find out if Social Stories could be considered an "effective intervention" which means that enough research has been done, and with enough strong and positive outcomes, to warrant certain public advocacy groups (like the National Autism Center) to vouch for the intervention.

The results were mixed but encouraging enough to have the National Autism Center label it an "emerging treatment", which is good enough for me at this point. There were a number of interesting findings from this meta-analysis. Social Stories interventions that used a strong visual component such as photographs of actual participants and peers, or were computer-presented seemed to produce better outcomes. Both readers and non-readers could benefit, but readers slightly more. Interestingly, Carol Gray has a very specific criteria for using social stories and the meta-analysis suggested that strict adherence to this criteria may not be related to positive outcomes. We used to have this finding all the time in other therapy research study outcomes-strict adherence to the script in "manualized therapy" situations did not necessarily produce the best results. Adding some therapist discretion (under the umbrella of the manualization) tended to improve outcomes on a case by case basis. I should disclose, however, that I cannot verify that this is still true, but it was a general consensus when I was in grad school.

A take-away for the average reader who has made it this far is that Social Stories are a great resource for teaching social skills to kids with ASD. They can even be adapted to be useful to adolescents and adults on the Spectrum, although this claim is based exclusively on the opinions and accounts of actual practitioners, and not necessarily something that has been scrutinized by researchers. Check out Social Stories online and send the link to your child's IEP coordinator and clinician.

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