Individuals with Autism experience difficulties in social situations because they lack social interaction skills. This affects the inability to interpret social cues such as body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Many times people with Autism are visual thinkers and learners. They learn best when information is presented to them visually rather than orally. There are many visual interventions that are used to decrease inappropriate behaviors and improve social skills. The purpose of a social skills interventions are to improve social competence, enhance opportunities for social interactions, and promote social behaviors that generalize across all settings. The Social Story intervention was designed to provide children with Autism the information about social interactions and expectations visually. Social Story interventions have shown positive outcomes in the social development of children with Autism. Through research, Social Stories have proven to be very effective, and are one of the major interventions used for children with Autism. Social Stories have been used to improve social behavior, appropriate social interactions, and decrease undesired behaviors. They are also written to explain challenging social situation through the help of personalization stories and picture cues. Social Stories describe specific activities and the appropriate behaviors expected in these activities. According to the creators of Social Stories "A Social Story enhances an individual's understanding of social situations and teaches an appropriate behavioral response that can be practiced by the individual. Subsequent social interactions allow for the repeated practice of the described behavioral response cue, and a new social behavior can be learned. In this sense, the story itself becomes a "how to" book for initiating, responding to, and maintaining appropriate interactions for individuals with ASD" (Gray & Garand, 1993).
Research has shown the effectiveness of Social Stories and young children with Autism, but not much research has been done to show the effect of Social Stories with adolescents until recently. Authors Graetz, Mastropieri, and Scruggs (2009) conducted a research for adolescents with Autism using a modified version of the Gray and Garand's Social Stories interventions. The original guidelines for using Social Stories suggested for the stories to include three sentence types. The stories were to include a descriptive sentence that describes the scenario, a directive sentence to describe the desired behavior, and a perspective sentence to describe the feelings of others. Usually the stories contain visual images with one to two sentences per page. One page includes a visual image or photograph of the student in the scenario where the problem behavior occurs and a descriptive sentence such as "Every day we have centers." The second page would contain a directive sentence that describes the desired behavior followed by a picture of the desired behavior. Page two could read as follows: "All the children share toys during center time. When I am in centers I can share with my friends." The last page can include a perspective sentence indicating the feelings of others around them such as "When I share my friends and teachers are happy." Social Stories can be presented to the students in the form of the student reading the story independently, recording the story for nonreaders, or creating a video tape of the social story. Since all Social Stories are created depending on what works best for each individual child, Social Stories can be modified to fit each child's needs. For the purpose of this research, the authors modified the Social Stories to include the student's pictures and a comic strip talking bubbles. This research included 3 adolescent students with Autism between the ages of 12 and 15. The results of this study indicated that all three participants that were introduced to modified Social Stories immediately declined the inappropriate behaviors. The study also demonstrated that all three students were generalizing the appropriate behaviors to other settings and after the intervention was removed the appropriate behaviors were maintained. Another study conducted by Kuoch and Mirenda (2003) presented the effectiveness of Social Skills by examining this intervention in 3 young children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The three participants were Andrew, 3, Henry, 5, and Neil, 6. Andrew and Henry received an ABA design which included of (A) being the baseline and (B) the Social Story intervention. Neil received an ACABA design which now include (C) being the condition of a book of interest and a reminder. The results showed that all three boys immediately reduced their rate of inappropriate behaviors when the Social Story intervention was introduced. The condition being used on Neil had no effect on eliminating the problem behavior, but the implementation of the Social Story did affect the problem behavior. This study also mentioned that the behavior reduction continued after the intervention was discontinued proving that the students were able to learn the appropriate social behaviors during the course of the intervention. Based on the research by Kuoch and Mirenda (2003) and Graetz, Mastropieri, and Scruggs (2009) we have seen the effectiveness of Social Stories with both children and Adolescents with Autism. In both research studies the personalization of having the students pictures motivated the students to remain engaged in their own Social Story. The authors also noted that the students responded well to seeing their pictures instead of visual images. They were able to relate to the story and it also allowed for generalization opportunities. Another study was conducted to differentiate the effects of Social Stories on paper and Computer-Assisted versions of Social Stories. The purpose of this study was to introduce both the paper format and the computer version of the Social Story to students with Autism experiencing inappropriate behaviors. In this study the students were given the opportunity to state which version they preferred and then continue their interventions using the format they chose. The participants in this study included two males and one female from the ages of 6 to 9 previously diagnosed with Autism. The computer-assisted Social Story format was presented on Power-Point. Both the paper and the computer format were presented with the same pictures, text, and background color. The results indicated that there was a reduction in the frequency of pushing during transitions in all three participants. The study found that the results were slightly better for the computer-assisted version when it was used as a condition. The outcome is believed to have happened since many children show high interest in computers. It was believed that overall both the paper and computer-assisted version of Social Stories decreased the pushing behavior for all three students. In all three studies the teachers and caregivers responded positively to the Social Stories. Parents also commented on success of using Social Stories at home. Research has proved that individuals with Autism throughout different age groups respond well to Social Stories. Teachers can use the research information to create Social Stories for their students to allow them to be successful in different settings and social situations. They can be easily created and implemented by the teachers without being time consuming. Social Stories can be used in different settings and many available resources are available to assist teacher with creating them. Teachers should use Social Stories to facilitate the inclusion process in mainstreamed classroom.
In conclusion, Social Stories are suggested for teaching social skills to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of this intervention when implemented on students with Autism. It has shown that with the help of Social Stories, children decrease the problem behavior and improve appropriate social behaviors. Social Stories model the specific skills needed to implement the appropriate social skills with the help of a personalized stories and pictures. As concluded by Sansosti, Powell-Smith, and Kincaid, (2004) "Social Stories emphasize a specific skill and the behavioral steps necessary to successfully manage the target situation." Social Stories have demonstrated to be effective, teach and maintain the desired behavior, and generalize the behaviors to other settings.