Here at Applied Behavioral Strategies, our mission is to improve the quality of life through effective intervention. One way we hope to do that is by reviewing research articles for our readers. Today’s article is titled “Brief Report: Increasing Verbal Greeting Initiations for a Student with Autism Via a Social StoryTM Intervention”. Brian Reichow and Edward Sabornie authored the article and The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders published the article.
It is a known fact that children with autism spectrum disorders have social deficits. One intervention that has been used is Social Stories. While social stories are widely used, the research on the effectiveness has been limited. Thus, the authors set out to determine if a Social Story could be used to increase appropriate verbal greeting initiations.
The authors enrolled an 11-year-old male with autism in the study. “George” as he was called, had an average IQ and he had above average grades on his report card. While he attended a social skills group at school, his social skills did not seem to be improving.
The authors developed a story according the guidelines recommended by Carol Gray. We discussed some of the differences between Social Stories TM and social stories or social narratives earlier this week.
The authors used a withdrawal design to demonstrate experimental control. Basically, in this design, an intervention is implemented. If the intervention is effected, it is removed to determine if the behavior would return to pre-treatment levels.
The authors merely counted the number (or frequency) of verbal greeting initiations. Waves and gestures did not count, only verbal greetings (e.g., hi, hello, good morning).
In baseline, George reported to his home room, picked up his schedule, and went about his day.
During intervention, George picked up his schedule (which included “read your Social Story”) and then read his social story before heading out to classes. The authors faded the social story and moved to a simple “cue card”.
During baseline, George had zero verbal initiations. During intervention, George had an immediate increase in verbal greeting initiations. Specifically, he initiated greetings between 2 and 6 times a day; including greetings to peers! However, when the intervention was “withdrawn”, George stopped initiating greetings. When the intervention was reinstated, his initiations increased again to 2 to 4 initiations per day; including initiations to peers. When the social story was faded and the cue card was taught, the verbal initiations continued.
As we have discussed, this intervention is effective. Also as we have discussed, all interventions should be developed on an individualized basis. This is not a one size fits all approach. This individualization means that teachers, behavior analysts, and other practitioners will need to spend time developing the materials that will be used to teach the skill(s).