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Social Story Interventions for Students

Social Story Interventions for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders A Meta-Analysis

According to the American Psychiatrist Association (APA, 2000), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are a group of disorders characterized by a variety of difficulties with social interactions, communication, interests and repetitive behaviors. Included in ASD is autism, Aspersers Syndrome(AS) and pervasive developmental disorder which is not otherwise specified(PDD-MOS.)A wide range of interventions have been practiced so as to  mitigate the disorder. Among the intervention strategies is the use of social stories. These are individualized short stories written by teachers or parents of students with ASD. These stories can according to Atwood,2000 be used to aid people with such disorders in interpreting and comprehending challenging or rather confusing social questions. Social stories also give information regarding what people in a given situation are doing, feeling, thinking, sequence of events and the identification of important social cues and their meaning. Basically, the stories deal with the ; who, what, when and why aspects of social situations (Atwood, 2000.p.90).

Reynhout and Carter conducted a meta-analysis of single subject research to examine the use of social stories and the role of comprehensive set of moderator variables which include intervention and participant characteristics on intervention outcomes. In 2004, Sansosti, Powel Smith and Kincaid had carried out a comprehensive review and synthesis of the already existing research literature relating to social story effectiveness and discovered that a lot of the conducted studies were deficient of experimental control, had weak treatment effects and were confounded by a range of treatment variables. This made it hard to determine whether social stories alone were responsible for the changes seen in target behaviors.(Reynhout and Carter ,p.466)coincide with the observations made by Kincaid and company. They note that 'existing research does not demonstrate unequivocally that social story intervention is consistently effective in facilitating behavior change in children with autism. A comparison between two related studies was done. The studies were: a meta-analysis of single subject research and a web based survey.

The two research studies had the following set of questions :( a) what is the overall effectiveness of social stories? (b) How are social stories constructed and used? and (c) What are the control participant and intervention variables that moderate the effectiveness of social stories? In the meta-analysis, (Crozier, 2007) Percentage of non-overlapping data (PND) was computed for the total intervention in the study for each participant. A set of inclusion criteria was used i.e. “studies using non experimental AB designs…treatment packages, those involving participants without a diagnosis of ASD and those with ceiling effects in baselines were not included”(Crozier, 2007). Due to this, a total of 18 studies comprising of 15 published articles and 3 dissertations that had been published between the years 2002 and 2007 were included in the meta-analysis. The web based questionnaire analyzed using descriptive statistics provided data for the survey. The final sample was made up of 42 teachers who were dealing with students with ASD.

The use and effectiveness of social story was obtained and later on compared and contrasted across the two studies. The results of the meta-analysis pointed out those social stories had low to questionable overall effectiveness as per the PND score of 62% in the range 11-100% obtained for the intervention. Most teachers on contrary perceived the stories as highly effective when used to address transition difficulties faced by students with ASD. The meta-analysis indicated larger effects of the social stories on the reduction of challenging traits as opposed to the increase of social stall. According to the studies, the use of teachers as agents of social stories in special education contexts is the most common. On the other hand, the use of social stories in general education classrooms with students as their own intervention agents were associated with greater treatment effectiveness. The application of Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA)  to inform social story interventions is believed to have led to improved outcomes. Younger and higher functioning participants such as students with better communication and social skills seemed to benefit to a greater extent from the intervention compared to older students with lower levels of skill development. The analysis also made use of additional variables of interest such as format of social stories, length and intensity of the intervention, use of comprehensive checks and participant reading skills.


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