Evaluating Digital Social Stories

Poster Presentation
Thursday, May 10, 2018: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
E. Smith1, H. Johnson1, A. Constantin2 and M. Brosnan3, (1)University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom, (2)University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, (3)Centre for Applied Autism Research, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Social stories are a widely used intervention for people with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Practitioners perceive them to be highly effective but meta analyses of the research literature reveals mixed findings. Crucial influences upon the effectiveness of social stories is argued to be in the consistency of their development and delivery as well as the behaviours targeted for intervention. The majority of existing research literature has focussed on evaluating effectiveness relating to either increasing or decreasing a specific behaviour. However, in practice the most common use of social stories by parents and practitioners is for supporting children with novel events and transitions.


The Digital social stories iPad app has been developed through participatory design and was evaluated for its impact upon supporting children with ASD in preparation for a novel event.


Participants were 10 autistic children (8 male; 2 female), aged 7-11. All children were due to attend a 4-day school summer camp and their teacher had identified a specific area/event that was anticipated to cause a high level of concern/anxiety and problematic behaviours (e.g. being away from their family, eating different food). A unique social story was written for each child within the digital social stories app and presented on the iPad. The researcher read the social story with the child every day during the week before the camp. The child’s teacher rated their level of anxiety, understanding and closeness to their individual target goal (identified in the social story) on an 11 point scale (0-10) before and after the social story intervention. A rating of problem severity during camp was also obtained.


Results revealed a significant increase in the child’s perceived level of understanding (t = 2.34, p = 0.044), a move towards achieving the child’s individual goal (t = 4.15, p = 0.002), and a decrease in perceived anxiety levels (t = 4.49, p = 0.002) when comparing the pre- and post- intervention teacher ratings. Problem severity during camp was also significantly correlated with getting closer to the goal (difference between pre- and post measure) r = 0.66, p = 0.038. Changes in anxiety (r = .57, p = 0.089) and understanding (r = 0.50, p = 0.14) were not significantly correlated with problem severity but did indicate a trend in the right direction.


Empirical support was found for using Digital social stories to help children prepare for a novel, potentially challenging event by decreasing anxiety, increasing understanding and facilitating a move towards the child’s individual target goal. Much research on social stories to date has been single case study design and this study represents a relatively large sample size, as well as focussing upon supporting upcoming events that may be challenging, rather than a specific challenging behaviour (which is typically the focus within the research literature).

Individual child profiles will be presented (anonymously) as well as the group data. Funding for the project was provided by The Leverhulme Trust.

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