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Social Narratives for Students with Autism

One major goal for many students with autism is to be included in educational environments with their typically developing peers. A defining characteristic of autism is difficulty with interpersonal communication, which can inhibit successful inclusion. Social narratives are effective, evidence-based interventions that aim to give students with autism an understanding of social situations and teach the behavior or social participation that will be expected of them. Here are 4 ways social narratives support inclusion for students with autism.

Promote Positive Interactions

Inclusion for students with autism can be challenging. This is especially true when they are unable or unsure of how to successfully participate in social interactions. Social narratives explicitly explain what a social situation typically looks like and how the student should behave. Scripts are written to match the setting the student will be encountering. For example, a social narrative titled, “Conversations at Lunch” may lead a student through choosing someone to talk to, how to begin a conversation, examples or suggestions of age appropriate topics to discuss, and how to take turns listening and speaking. Knowing what to expect and having a script for how to behave or participate promotes positive interactions with peers, adults, and family members (even pets!) for students with autism.

Preventative Management for Challenging Behavior 

Social narratives are highly individualized interventions that are written to target a student’s specific needs. For some students with autism, a particular challenging behavior they engage in can prevent them from being included in the least restrictive setting. For example, a child may stand up from the table and run from the room (elopement) each time work is placed in front of them. This can be a dangerous behavior and is certainly challenging for the teacher in an inclusion setting.

A social narrative can address this behavior in a preventative way. For instance, a student can read a story that scripts the expected behavior when a teacher places an assignment on their desk. If the student is aware of what they should do in the situation, they are more likely to engage in the appropriate behavior. For example, in this scenario, picking up their materials, beginning to work, and asking for help as needed. Social narratives can target any challenging behavior and can be read an unlimited number of times to prevent them. ThinkPsych promotes prevention of challenging behavior through social narratives, such as with this story “What To Do When I Want To Bite.”

Can Include Peers

Social narratives promote inclusion through the possibility of including other students. Reading in small groups of diverse learners gives students with autism an opportunity to share their experiences with peers. Teachers can guide discussion around the scenarios in the narrative. Peers can act out scenes with the student with autism to practice interactions.

Social narratives are written with simplicity. This allows for peers to read them with or to the student with autism. Additionally, peers will gain an understanding of how students with autism learn to interact. This promotes stronger future social interactions! Similarly, peers and individuals with autism can be included in writing and illustrating the social narratives.

Social Narratives are Highly Adaptable

A social narrative can be created for any situation. Entering an inclusion setting requires more than being in the classroom and participating in work. Students will have group work, take bathroom breaks, join their peers for lunch and recess, experience changes in routine, attend field trips, and the list goes on. Each experience in the inclusion setting presents potential challenges in interpersonal communication. However, a social narrative can address each one! Along with the adaptability of content, social narratives are also adaptable in format. They can be any page length, include picture cues, and be in book or digital form. As a result, social narratives a widely accessible intervention.

Resources

https://carolgraysocialstories.com/social-stories/what-is-it/
https://raisingchildren.net.au/autism/therapies-guide/social-stories

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown

Emily received her Bachelor’s degree in Child & Family Development from Georgia Southern University and her M. Ed. in Multiple & Severe Disabilities in Early Childhood from Georgia State University. She also has Basic & Advanced ABA Certificates from Florida Institute of Technology. While in school, she received Georgia Association of Young Children’s Student of the Year Award as well as the Cynthia Cynthia Kuhlman Award for academic excellence and leadership. She has worked with children from birth to middle school through being a childcare employee, teacher, inclusion specialist, administrator and research assistant. Emily currently lives in West Midtown, Atlanta, with her husband, young daughter, and dog.

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