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Social Stories, Social Scripts and the Power Card Strategy

By — Autism Society
Updated on Dec 8, 2010

Social Scripts, Social StoriesTM (Gray, 2000) and the Power Card Strategy (Gagnon, 2001) are three types of social narratives that provide direct instruction of social situations for children on the autism spectrum, including those with Asperger Syndrome (AS). Each is written by a child’s teacher or parent, sometimes with the help of the child, providing a visual cue and desired social responses. There are minimal guidelines for presenting social narratives, but the content should match the child’s needs and take the child’s perspective into consideration (Myles, Trautman & Schelvan, 2004). Each of these strategies can be used to teach routines, help a student deal with uncertainty, introduce change in routine, or address a wide variety of interfering behaviors, including aggression, fear and obsessions.

Social Scripts

Social Scripts provide pre-taught language for specific situations They can involve conversation starters, responses and ideas to connect conversations or change the topic. Social Scripts can reduce the stress associated with social interactions and assist the child with understanding the perspective of others. Including informal language, slang or child-specific terms in the Social Script may help the conversational exchange appear more natural (Kamps et al., 2002).

Social Scripts are not appropriate in every situation as there is a risk in making children sound too rehearsed or “scripted” in their response. Because students with autism spectrum disorders struggle with appropriate generalization of skills, they may try to use a script in a wrong situation. For example, Rick, a fifth-grader with high-functioning autism, learned how to order a cheeseburger and fries at a well-known fast food restaurant through scripted communication. When he ordered the same food at a sit-down restaurant, he became upset when asked additional questions about the order, such as “How do you want that cooked?” and “What type of cheese do you want on your burger?”

Following is an example of a Social Script written for Rick when ordering in a fast food restaurant.

When I go to a fast food restaurant I stand in line until it is my time to order. The person taking the order will say something like, “Hi, what would you like to order?” I will say, “I want a cheeseburger, a small order of fries and a small coke.” If he asks me if I want anything else, I will say “No.” I will then hand him a five dollar bill and will be given some change. I will say, “Thank you,” when I get my food. 

Social StoriesTM

Social StoriesTM, created by Carol Gray, is a text or story describing a specific social situation. It provides a visual cue for the child to reflect upon and is individualized for the child. Included in the story is “who” is involved, “what” happens, “when” the event takes place, “why” it happens and “how” it happens (Gray, 2000; Swaggart et al., 1995). Relevant social cues are included throughout the story. Social Stories sequence, explain and sometimes illustrate social rules or concepts. It is important to write the story at the child’s functioning level and to make it motivating for the child. For instance, a story written about an upcoming field trip for a 4-year-old with autism would be markedly different than a story written for a 12-year-old with AS. Social Stories are also used to help the child understand the perspective of others. The story can include what others are thinking and feeling, or explain the motives and actions of others. When writing a Social Story it is important to describe the desired response rather than the problem behavior. For instance, if Linda has a meltdown on a field trip, a Social Story written for subsequent field trips would not say, “It is important to not have a tantrum on field trips.” The story would describe the sequence of events for the field trip, who would be going, how long the trip would last, etc.

Following is an example of a Social Story written to prepare Linda for a field trip.

On Wednesday, May 14, 2009, Mrs. Anderson’s class is going on a field trip to the science museum. The bus will arrive at 9:00 a.m. and the class will get on the bus. Each student will be assigned someone to sit with. I will sit with Melissa on the bus. Each student will bring a lunch from home. I will bring a peanut butter sandwich, an apple, two chocolate chip cookies and a juice box. My lunch will be in a paper bag so that I won’t have to worry about losing my lunch box. My name will be on the paper bag and it will go into a cooler with all of the other lunches. It takes approximately 30 minutes on the bus to get to the museum. If there is lots of traffic or road construction, it may take longer. That is really okay because I always enjoy talking with Melissa on the bus. At the museum, Melissa and I will be with Mrs. Anderson’s group along with Barb, Lisa and Christy. We will stay together as we walk through the museum. At 11:30 we will walk to the park to eat lunch. The cooler with all of the lunches will be there waiting for us. At 12:15 we will get back on the bus to return to school. It is going to be a great day because I know what to expect.

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