Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to a question from readers. Today’s post is in response to multiple requests and questions about social stories and visual supports. Common questions include:
- I thought the story had to be written in first person? (e.g., “I like” versus “Charlie likes”)
- I thought the story had to be just like Dr. Gray says (A specifically defined style and format: sharing accurate social information and affirming something positive about the child)
- Is there any research to support social stories or visual supports?
- We do ABA. Social stories aren’t behavioral.
- My child cannot read so why should we have a story?
Social stories and visual supports serve a specific purpose of providing visual information to individuals so that they can be successful in difficult situations. Some examples of difficult situations include:
- Non-preferred but required activities (e.g., shopping, haircuts, blood draws)
- Changes to routine (schedule is disrupted, substitute teacher, different bus route, school cancellations)
- Novel situations (first time to hospital, first time on an airplane, first time to a play or show, storms)
- Special but routine situations (dr. appointments, dentist appointments, hair cuts)
Social stories and visual supports should be individualized to the user. While it may not be convenient for a teacher to create 12-15 stories/visual supports, what works for one person may not be appropriate for another. When developing stories and visual supports keep the following considerations in mind:
- age of the individual (resources must be age appropriate for the user)
- reading ability (adjust the text of the visual depending on the reading level)
- visual acuity (content should be selected based on the individual’s vision and ability, 3D versus 2D, color versus black and white)
- attention span (the length and detail of the story or visual support)
While Dr. Gray has created a trademark, there are many options beyond what she describes. Because social stories and visual supports should be individualized, the content should be determined based on the individual’s needs. For example, a mom here in CT created a social story for her child regarding Hurricane Sandy. The story included information about the storm, how it would affect trees and power, and how power could be restored. The story was developed for her son because the issue of losing power is important for him. He becomes upset if he cannot turn on lights or play on computers. However, another child may be scared of the wind or scared of the heavy rain. That child would need a story that focuses on the wind and the rain and how to make the noise go away. And then another child may not fully understand why she cannot go to school. Because she cannot read, her story may show a picture of wind and rain and a picture saying “no school”. The story would end with a picture of the little girl at home working with her ABA therapist.
We have written about visual supports before: here, here, and here. We recommend only evidence-based strategies for our readers. So obviously there is ample research to support social stories and visual supports. A research group has developed a list of evidence-based practices for individuals with autism. Social narratives and visual supports are both on the list. For additional information on those practices and to read the research visit here.
ABA and Social Stories and Visual Supports
ABA, applied behavioral analysis, is simply the application of behavioral principles, to everyday situations, that will, over time, increase or decrease targeted behaviors. For additional information on ABA, visit our website. Thus, the use of visual supports and social stories does not preclude someone from doing ABA. Similarly, implementing ABA does not preclude someone from using visual supports and social stories.
I hope this helps to answer the many questions about social stories and visual supports. If you have a behavioral question for me email me directly at askmissy at applied behavioral strategies dot com. Thanks!