International Meeting for Autism Research: Evaluating the Components of a Social Stories Intervention Package for Children with Autism

Evaluating the Components of a Social Stories Intervention Package for Children with Autism

Thursday, May 12, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
10:00 AM
J. Vogel, K. Imlay, A. Finch and D. Berry Malmberg, California State University Northridge, Northridge, CA
Background: Autism spectrum disorder is marked by impairments in social interactions, communication, and imaginative play (APA, 2000). These impairments affect the child’s ability to understand nonverbal communication, engage in reciprocal social interactions, and develop relationships with peers. Social Stories have become a widely adopted intervention to teach social skills and to address maladaptive behaviors of children with autism. Social Stories are brief first person narratives that describe appropriate responses and behaviors in social contexts (Gray & Garand, 1993). Findings regarding the effectiveness of Social Story interventions have been mixed, and many studies have methodological concerns (Kokina & Kern, 2010; Rust & Smith, 2006). Another concern with prior research is that Social Stories are frequently presented in an intervention package with other behavioral interventions, such as prompting (Swaggart et al., 1995), role-play (Chan & O’Reilly, 2008), and feedback (Thiemann & Goldstein, 2001). Therefore, the components of this study were studied in isolation rather than with other behavioral interventions (Kokina & Kern, 2010; Rust & Smith, 2006). 

Objectives: The goal of this study was to examine the effectiveness of two components of Social Story interventions, the Social Story and prompting, in isolation to determine their unique contributions to social skill acquisition of children with autism.

Methods: A single-subject component analysis design was used to determine the critical element of the intervention responsible for behavior change. Two children, ages 6 and 9, with a diagnosis of Autistic Disorder participated in this study. For each child, target behaviors were randomly assigned to one of two conditions, either Social Stories or prompting. Target behaviors included reciprocal conversation, sharing, empathy, and congratulations. In the Social Story condition, children listened to a Social Story describing their individualized target behavior. If the participant engaged in the target behavior, the experimenter provided verbal praise. During the prompting condition, the experimenter verbally prompted the participant to engage in the appropriate behavior, which the experimenter reinforced through verbal praise upon demonstration. 

Results: Results indicate that the isolated Social Story component did not lead to acquisition of children’s target social behaviors; however, the prompting phase resulted in rapid skill acquisition, as well as retention of the skill at follow-up. 

Conclusions: By isolating the Social Story component, we were able to determine that Social Stories alone were not responsible for the acquisition of social behaviors for these children with autism. Further research of the isolated components of social skill interventions would aid in the identification of critical elements in social skill acquisition and assist in providing evidence-based treatments to teach social skills to children with autism.

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