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 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, 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.
The Power Card Strategy
The Power Card Strategy is a visual aid that incorporates the child’s special interest to teach appropriate social interactions, including routines, behavioral expectations and the hidden curriculum. It consists of two parts—a short scenario describing how the hero solves the problem and a small card with a picture of the hero to recap the strategy. Because children with AS often have well-defined special interests, the hero associated with their interest serves as a motivator. The strategy capitalizes on the relationship between child and hero. Following the initial reading of the scenario, the child is given the Power Card to keep with them. This card serves as a way to generalize the skill to new settings (Gagnon, 2001).
Following is an example of the use of the Power Card Strategy written for a fourth-grade girl with AS who was struggling to pay attention in class. The Power Card accompanying this scenario was a small picture of Hannah Montana with the three steps to success on the reverse side of the picture.
Hannah Montana loves being in concert and also loves being on the set of her TV show. She still, however, has to go to school. Sometimes it is hard for her to pay attention to her teachers when she is in class. As Miley Cyrus she is sometimes tempted to daydream about her other life as Hannah Montana. She has learned, however, that listening to her teachers and doing her school work is as important as singing, dancing and acting. She has learned that she needs to pay attention in class and do her work, so that she has time to do what she loves to do.
Just like Hannah Montana, it is important to pay attention in class. This would make Hannah Montana proud. Hannah would like all girls who love her to remember these three things.
- Listen to your teacher when she is talking. Be ready to answer any questions that she might ask.
- Do your school assignments and stay on task until the assignment is completed.
- Always ask for help when needed.
Remember to pay attention in class and do your school work and you will have lots of time to watch and listen to Hannah Montana when you are finished.
Social Scripts, Social StoriesTM and the Power Card strategy are easy-to-use visual supports that help children with AS understand their social world. Effective in home, school and community, these supports are substantiated by research.
Gagnon, E. (2001). The Power Card Strategy: Using Special Interests to Motivate Children and Youth with Asperger Syndrome. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.
Gray, C.A. (2000). The New Social Story Book™. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons.
Gray, C.A. (1995). Writing Social Stories with Carol Gray. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons.
Kamps, D., Royer, J., Dugan, E., Kravits, T., Gonzalez-Lopez, A., Garcia, G., Carnazzo, K., Morrison, L., & Kane, L.G. (2002). Peer training to facilitate social interaction for elementary students with autism and their peers. Exceptional Children, 68(2): 173-187.
Myles, B.S., Trautman, M.L., & Schelvan, R.L. (2004). The Hidden Curriculum: Practical Solutions for Understanding Unstated Rules in Social Situations. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.
Swaggart, B., Gagnon, E., Bock, S.J., & Earles, T.L. (1995). Using Social Stories to teach social and behavioral skills to children with autism. Focus on Autistic Behavior, 10(1): 1-16.
Reprinted with the permission of the Autism Society.