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Social story interventions for young children with autism spectrum disorders : a comparative study Kuoch, Hoa

Abstract

Impairments in the area of social development is a core deficit in individuals with autism (Kanner, 1963). Some theorists suggest that these problems stem from an inability to understand mental states and take the perspectives of others (Baron-Cohen et al., 1985; Leekam & Perner, 1991; Leslie, 1987). Regardless of whether or not this is the primary reason that people autism are often unsuccessful in social settings, it is important that they are provided with adequate social supports. Social stories, created by Carol Gray (1993), are designed to help people with autism negotiate the intricacies of social exchanges by providing accurate social information about the perspectives of other people. The present study was designed to examine the effectiveness of a social story intervention with three young children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. The single-subject design compared two treatment conditions and measured changes in the child participants' targeted problem behaviors. In the social story condition, a caregiver read the child a social story that described a problem situation, provided insights into the perspectives of others, and offered desired responses. In the non-social story with reminder condition, the caregiver read a regular storybook to the child and then provided a verbal reminder of the appropriate behavior in the targeted situation. It was expected that a comparison of these two conditions would determine whether any changes in behavior were the result of the content of the social story or the extra adult attention with verbal reminder. Results indicated that, for one participant, the social story was more effective than the non-social story condition. For the other two subjects, the results were more difficult to interpret. These two children received the social story intervention prior to the non-social story treatment. They did not return to baseline levels of performance after the withdrawal of the social story. Thus, the controlling effects of social stories could not be isolated, nor could the relative impact of the second treatment (non-social story) be assessed. These results contribute to the existing empirical data on social studies and extends previous findings in a number of ways. First, a more methodologically sound design was implemented to control for a host of threats to internal validity. Second, the study was conducted with much younger participants than those used in past studies. Third, follow-up data suggest that gains were maintained up to 4 weeks after intervention, despite the fact that the social story was not read during that time and no verbal reminders were provided to the children. This suggests that learning of appropriate social behaviors may have occurred during the course of the intervention. Social story interventions appear to be a promising avenue for providing people with autism accurate social information (i.e. other people's perspectives) as well as appropriate responses in social settings. Further research is necessary to extend these findings within the context of a multiple baseline design, as well as to extend the current knowledge base regarding factors that influence the success of this intervention.

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