The world of autism support is full of confusing acronyms, procedures, names and therapeutic strategies. To help families interpret all the options, Project ACCESS has developed, and continues to develop, a set of Information Sheets which are meant to be very “user friendly” for families.
These Information Sheets break down a specific evidence-based strategy into an easy-to- read explanation, usually with an example or scenario. These can be used to illustrate a given strategy, while reinforcing knowledge or skills the user may already possess.
Additionally, the Information Sheets are useful to give supplemental illustration to be used with The Missouri Autism Guidelines Initiative (MAGI), Autism Spectrum Disorders: Guide to Evidence-based Interventions.
Here’s an example of one of our new Information Sheets:
Social Narrative is the umbrella or generic term for strategies that include Social Stories™, which are the trademarked work of Carol Gray, who first created this strategy. She has a tried and true“prescription” for writing the stories. Project ACCESS recommends using her instructions, when developing stories for individual children. (See resources below.)
We would like to advise caution as you look for Social Narratives on the internet and elsewhere. As with most things, there are good Social Narratives and really bad ones! While the Social Narrative is an evidence-based intervention, care must be taken with its use. Social Narratives are not a list of rules, they are not negative and they are not a reading lesson for the individual learner. As defined in the MAGI publication, “Story-based interventions identify a target behavior and involve a written description of the situations under which specific behaviors are expected to occur.” We think the key word here is expectations. Social Narratives give the individual learner information about expected behavior in whatever context is relevant. We are giving information the learner doesn’t already have, not correcting mistakes or bad behavior. The distinction is important. Look at the difference between a really awful Social Narrative and a good one.
Field Trip to McDonald’s (really awful Social Narrative)
Our class is going to McDonald’s. We will expect you to behave. Don’t run around, don’t play with your food and be nice to your friends. Keep your hands and feet to yourself when you board the bus.
Field Trip to McDonald’s (much better Social Narrative)
Our class is going to McDonald’s. I will ride on the bus with my classmates. I ride the bus back and forth to school, so I already know the bus rules.
McDonald’s will probably be full of other people. It might be noisy. Our teacher will take us to the counter to ask for our food. I will probably be able to smell all the food at McDonald’s. If I look above the counter, I will see a list of many foods. This is called a menu. I can choose something for the menu…and the story goes on…
So, what are the differences between a good Social Narrative and an awful one? A good Social Narrative is written in a positive tone. It is written in first person – from the learner’s perspective. It has lots of description. The learner needs to know when it looks like this, sounds like this, smells like this; this is the expected behavior. A good Social Narrative explains ambiguous terms. What does “be nice” mean? What does “behave” mean? We thought the learner in the better Social Narrative might not know what menu meant, so we explained it.
Social Narratives have been studied with learners from ages 6 to 14 years, but our experience is that the stories are successful with all ages. The content and vocabulary need to be adjusted, but the concept is the same.
The New Social Story Book, published by Future Horizons, includes many sample Social Stories™ and a detailed tutorial on development of Social Stories™ for your learner. Following is a link to Carol Gray’s Social Story™ website: http://carolgraysocialstories.com/
MAGI Autism Spectrum Disorders: Guide to Evidence-based Interventions, may be downloaded from the following link: www.autismguidelines.dmh.mo.gov
This Information Sheet and other #AutismResources, #AutismTraining and #AutismSupportServices information are available on our website at: projectaccess.missouristate.edu. Information Sheet titles now available: Computer Aided Instruction; Functional Communication Training; Picture Exchange Communication System; Social Narratives; Speech Generating Devices; Time Delay; Discrete Trial Teaching; and Pivotal Response Treatment. Our many Fact Sheets for educators, are available on the same page.
©Project ACCESS – Terri Carringon, M.A., CCC-SLP
Note: This was published as an article in the July/August 2017 issue of Missouri Autism Report.