This week I am participating in Research Tuesday, an initiative promoted by Gray Matter Therapy to increase engagement in research relevant to therapy. You may have noted I like to do this anyway where I can be "on message" with this blog and also discuss technology tools that make our use of research-based practices.
For this post, I was interested in exploring research related to the use of Social Stories, Carol Gray's popular visual approach to describing situations and shaping students' behavior and use of scripts. Much information is available on Social Stories online and through Carol's books on the subject. Social Stories or story-based intervention has been included in a number of meta-analyses including one by the National Standards Project (2007) and another by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2014). Many of the studies have been small or single subject, but they are plentiful. Based on the UNC Report, I tracked down one of the studies to read individually, but you can examine these two larger reports to see how the practice of using social studies has been advanced as evidence-based.
Schneider and Goldstein (2010) conducted a study with 3 clients with off-task behavior during school-based situations such as class meeting and computer room usage. Details are as follows:
-Targeted social behaviors were generated by parents, teachers and SLPs and subjected to baseline data collection.
-Social Stories related to the situations were composed using Gray's suggested ratio of descriptive, perspective, and directive sentences
-The stories were produced and presented on paper with standard font and the use of Picture Communication Symbols for visual support.
-Students were read the stories daily and before the targeted situations along with simple comprehension questions and reinforcement by the reader.
-For all three students, a notable increase in on-task and targeted behaviors (e.g. listening, transitioning) was documented, with some variability, resulting in a "modest" effect size (1.33)
-The authors suggested further research on the effects of reading stories multiple times daily, at varying times, or composing different stories to target the same behaviors.
Of course we could benefit from studies of this topic of a larger scale; however, the idea of Social Stories is that they are meant to be individualized. My own experience with being part of teams using social stories includes both suggesting targeted stories and composing them. I have never been a friend of paper, and I always struggled with helping teachers and paraprofessionals keep such visual supports in an appropriate place and accessing them regularly. I also have generally hated inserting pictures in word processed documents as they tend to fly around all over the place--I have had more success with using programs like PowerPoint for these purposes. My experience also is that some students "love" their Social Stories but others can be bored by them, leading me to seek out other means of delivery or spin-offs of the method such as Power Cards, which incorporate students' interests in the discussion of target behaviors.
Of late, I have been recommending Book Creator (Free to try/$4.99 for full version) as a means for creating and disseminating Social Stories and other materials, and would suggest that it aligns with the findings the studies mentioned above. Yes, a Book Creator book is not the same as paper, but using the app has several advantages:
-A story created in Book Creator can not only include pictures and text, but also audio (perhaps recorded by the student himself) or video--aligning with the supported practice of video modeling. It is simple to insert personally relevant images such as the student's classroom in the book using the iPad camera.
-Stories can be shared in any format you want with Book Creator (which is why I recommend it over other creation apps that require uploading to the app's website) including emailing it to a teacher or paraprofessional as an ePub formatted book. ePub is a multimedia format that would carry the audio or video attached to the book, and can easily be opened in the iBooks app (Free) in an iPad attached to the student.
-The combination of all the above can pay off in student engagement!
There are a wealth of Book Creator tutorial videos on YouTube- but rest assured it is a very user-friendly app. I've taught Kindergarteners to use it!
Schneider, N., Goldstein, H. (2010). Using social stories and visual schedules to improve socially appropriate behaviors in children with autism. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 12(3), pp. 149-160