Social stories bring about short term changes in long standing behaviours of people wth learning disabilities and autism

boy with autism

The National Autistic Society describe social stories as short descriptions of a particular situation, event or activity, which include specific information about what to expect in that situation and why.

The authors of this study set out to look at the effectiveness of Social Stories with four adults with learning disabilities and social communication impairments said to be characteristic of Autism Spectrum Disorder .

They used an N = 1 multiple-baseline, across-participant, AB design. An AB design is where a baseline measure ‘A’ is taken, a treatment or intervention ‘B’ is applied and if changes are found to have occurred, then the researchers are able to state that the treatment has had an effect. The researchers here used multiple baseline measures and an additional probe.

They used two Social Story interventions, with both the intervention and data on effect collected by support workers who knew the participants.

What they found was that target behaviours showed positive change during at least one phase of the study. They found a return towards baseline levels across all behaviours measured into the probe phase.

They conclude from their study that Social Stories had a positive effect on improving social interaction in adults with social interaction impairments, but that this this effect was short-lived.

They suggest that given the behaviours targeted by the intervention were As long standing, that a longer context specific intervention may be needed to ensure that longer lasting changes might occur.

The effectiveness of social stories™ to develop social interactions with adults with characteristics of autism spectrum disorder, Samuels R & Stansfield J, in  British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 40: 272–285


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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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