Investigating the Real-Word Application of Social Stories™ within Education and Home Settings
Social Stories™ are highly structured and personalised social narratives, written and delivered according to a set of criteria outlined by Carol Gray. They are widely used within the autistic community and perceived by teachers and parents to be both an effective and acceptable treatment. Despite their popularity, meta analyses of the research literature reveals mixed findings regarding effectiveness. To date there has been little in the research literature to show how Social Stories™ are being developed and delivered by practitioners and parents in real-word settings and therefore it may not be possible to consider the implications for effectiveness in practice from the research literature.
To investigate how Social Stories™ are being used by parents and practitioners within education and home settings, and consider how this compares to their use within research studies.
An online survey was conducted with 103 practitioners and 36 parents over a 6-month period. The survey comprised a series of self-report questions to assess common practices for Social Story™ construction and delivery. Questions related to the 11 intervention variables used in Kokina and Kern’s (2010) meta-analysis to enable comparisons to be made between research and practice.
All respondent reported experience of using Social Stories™ but relatively few parents (40%) and practitioners (61.7%) had received specific training and less than half (48.5%) indicated that Gray’s criteria were consistently adhered to.
Table 1 presents a comparison between the proportion of research studies relating to the different intervention variables included in Kokina and Kern’s (2010) meta analysis, and the percentage of practitioners and parents who report using Social Stories™ in this way. For several features the majority of participants reported using Social Stories™ in the manor that was found to be most effective (brief intervention; using words and pictures; targeting a single behaviour; use of a functional assessment; use of comprehension checks). Other areas highlighted disparities (when the story was read; who read the story; story length). In addition, when considering the behaviours targeted for intervention both practitioners and parents reported the most common use of Social Stories™ for supporting children with transitions and novel situations, yet very few research studies have focussed on this area (supported by an updated literature search in March 2017).
The current Social Stories™ research literature is largely based upon addressing inappropriate behaviours in autism and highlights a huge variation in the level of effectiveness across studies. In practice, however, Social Stories™ are largely not being written to Gray’s criteria and are being used to assist in transitions and novel situations for children with autism. The effectiveness of Social Stories™ derived from the research literature may therefore have limited relevance for the effectiveness of Social Stories™ in practice. Further research is required to consider the impact of how Social Stories™ are developed and delivered in practice to minimise potential research-practice discrepancies, and to ascertain the impact of violating Gray’s criteria upon Social Stories™ effectiveness for children with autism.
Funding for the project was provided by The Leverhulme Trust.