What Are Social Narratives?
According to the National Professional Development Center on Autism, social narratives are “...visually represented stories that describe social situations and socially appropriate responses or behaviors to help individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders acquire and use appropriate social skills” (Collet-Klingenberg & Franzone, 2008). A social narrative is used to help learners better understand social situations and appropriate social behavior.
Social narratives can be written by parents, teachers and therapists to meet the individualized needs of the learner. Specific social behaviors are targeted for change through the social narrative and provide descriptions of the social situation in a manner that is understandable to the learner (Gray, 1998; 2005; 2010). Most Social Narratives are illustrated with pictures, symbols, and/or line drawings to enhance the learner’s understanding of the story. The narratives are written in a positive and non-judgmental manner. They can be written for a variety of social contexts.
One of the most common types of social narratives written are called Social Stories™ by Carol Gray. Social Stories are composed of different types of sentences such as descriptive, directive and perspective. Descriptive sentences provide basic information related to social situations, such as who is involved, what people are doing and why. Directive statements provide the learner with information about what he or she should do (target skill) and often begin with the words “I can” or “I will”. Perspective statements provide the learner with information about the feelings and reactions of others in the social situation. Carol Gray recommends a ratio of one directive statement to every 2-5 descriptive or perspective statements when writing Social Stories.
Why Are Social Narratives Important?
Many students with disabilities demonstrate difficulty understanding and responding appropriately to the social world around them. Challenges with social communication often lead to increased frustration and the presence of less desirable behaviors in learners with disabilities. They may say or do things that are unexpected in the social context, such as making rude comments, invading other people’s space, screaming, throwing items, or refusing to leave a favorite activity. Social narratives are a visual strategy that can be used with learners who struggle with social communication delays.
Social narratives have been identified as an Evidenced Based Practice (EBP) by the National Professional Development Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders as a way to enhance a learner’s behavior, communication and social skill development (Collet-Klingenberg, L., & Franzone, E. 2008). Evidence has been established for addressing behavior, social, play, school-readiness, communication, joint attention, adaptive and academic skills through the use of social narratives for preschoolers to high school-aged students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Many smaller studies have noted gains in self-awareness, self-calming and self-management (Bledsoe, Myles, & Simpson, 2003). Social narratives are also effective in supporting other learners.
Social Narrative Topics
Narratives can focus on any number of social skills, behaviors or situations based on the individual needs of the Learner. Positivity™ provides users with multiple existing Social Narratives that may be used as is or edited to individualize the story. Users also have the option to write their own social narrative strategy.
Topics of a Social Narrative can vary greatly based on social situations and Learner needs. Each Narrative shares accurate information that is descriptive and meaningful to the Learner and serves to increase his or her understanding of the situation, skill or concept (Gray, 2005).
The following are some examples of possible targets:
Using safe hands and feet
Following a schedule
Gaining someone’s attention
Taking a break
Saying “please” and “thank you”
Using a tissue
Asking a friend to play
Creating a Social Narrative
There are multiple steps to creating an effective social narrative for any learner. A social narrative can be created in the Strategy Setup section of Positivity. Users have the options to create their own narrative or use an existing one.
Step 1: Identify the Target for the Social Narrative
Before writing the story, it is key to identify the social skill or behavior to change or improve, and the social context in which it will be worked on. Remember to prioritize skills/behaviors that are most likely to result in positive outcomes in the student’s relationships, safety and ability to learn.
This information can be gathered in a variety of ways, including:
- Input from parents and other team members
- Goals and objectives on the student’s current Individualized Education Program (IEP)
- Observations of the student in social situations
Step 2: Clearly Define the Target Behavior or Skill
Once a skill or behavior has been identified, clearly define the skill in observable and positive terms that can be measured.
Step 3: Collect Baseline Data on the Behavior or Skill
Identify a strategy to collect data on the target behavior and establish a baseline level for the target skill. Make sure to collect enough baseline data to establish a pattern. Generally, it is appropriate to have a minimum of 3-5 baseline data points to analyze.
Step 4: Create a Social Narrative
Use the information collected through observation, report and baseline data to assist you in writing the story. Make sure it is written in a manner that is appropriate for the learner’s age and level of comprehension (e.g., length and complexity of the story). Add shapes, text, symbols and images to each page of the social narrative to increase student engagement and understanding. Other options, such as font, size, color, text to speech and orientation are available to customize as well.
Create a Social Narrative from an Existing Narrative:
select Strategies (1), select Social Narrative (2), select the desired existing Social Narrative (3), select gear and choose copy (rename and customize as needed)(4)
Create a New Social Narrative:
Select Strategies (1), Select New Strategy (2)
Select Social Narrative (3), Name the Narrative (4), Select a Template to start if desired or leave blank if you want to start from scratch (5), Select Next (6) Drag images and add text to complete the narrative
Implementing a Social Narrative in Positivity
Step 5: Introduce and Implement the Social Narrative Intervention
It is important to make a specific plan on when the Social Narrative will be introduced and used with the Learner across the day. Assign the Social Narrative to specific scheduled events in Positivity and they will then be delivered based on the time of the event. It is best to choose times in which the Learner is typically calm and attentive to ensure better comprehension of the story. Users may read the story to the Learner, use the text to speech option to read, or have the student read the story aloud or silently.
When implementing the Social Narrative, also make sure to model and reinforce the appropriate behaviors identified in the story across the day to encourage acquisition and generalization of the skill.
Step 6: Collect and Analyze Intervention Data
How do you know if it is working? Once the Social Narrative intervention has been introduced and implemented consistently, begin collecting data on the success of the intervention. Tools in Positivity will provide information on how often the Narrative is delivered, when it was delivered and if it was read in its entirety. Use a similar method of collecting data as used during the baseline phase to determine if the Social Narrative is effective. Data gathered can be recorded in the Notes section of the student’s data report.
If the intervention is successful and the Learner is consistently engaging in the target behavior or skill, gradually fade the use of the Social Narrative over time. Continue to monitor the behavior/skill to ensure successful generalization across situations. If the Learner shows signs of returning to the baseline behaviors, the Narrative may need to be re-introduced.
If after 3-4 data points, the team does not see a positive trend change in the behavior, review the Social Narrative and implementation procedures to identify possible elements to change or ways to intensify the intervention. Some common questions to ask may be:
- Is the intervention being implemented with fidelity?
- Is enough reinforcement provided to the student for engaging in the targeted behavior?
- Is the Narrative being read frequently enough or at the correct times in the day?
- What prompting strategies are being used?
- Is the Social Narrative written in an understandable fashion for the learner?
- Is the Narrative targeting the appropriate skill or behavior?
According to Gall & Gall (2007), a minimum of 10 data points are needed to establish a reliable trendline to make significant decisions regarding the intervention. In such cases, the team will want to revisit the intervention to make more intensive changes or consider adjusting the type of intervention. Again, when making changes, focus on only one variable at a time.
Bledsoe, R. , Myles, B.S. , & Simpson, R.L. ( 2003). Use of a Social Story intervention to improve mealtime skills of an adolescent with Asperger syndrome. Autism, 7, 289-295.
Collet-Klingenberg L., & Franzone, E. (2008). Overview of social narratives. Madison, WI: The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders, Waisman Center, University of Washington.
Gall, M.D., & Gall, J.P. (2007). Educational research: An introduction (8th ed.). New York: Pearson
Gray, C.A. (1998). Writing social stories with Carol Gray. Fort Worth, TX: Future Horizons.
Gray, C. (2005). Social Stories™ 10.0: Updated guidelines and criteria for writing Social Stories™. PDF Download: www.thegraycenter.org
Gray, C. (2010). The new social story book. Fort Worth, TX: Future Horizons.
Myles, B.S. Trautman, M.L., & Schelvan, R.L. (2004). The hidden curriculum: Practice solutions for understanding unstated rules in social situations. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.
Myles, B.S. (2005). Children and Youth with Asperger Syndrome: Strategies for Success in Inclusive Settings. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Test, D. W., Richter, S., Knight, V., & Spooner, F. (2011). A comprehensive review and meta-analysis of the social stories TM literature. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 26(1), 49-62.
Wragge, A. (2011). Social narratives: online training module (Columbus, OH: OCALI). In Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI). Autism Internet Modules, www.autisminternetmodules.org. Columbus, OH: OCALI.