What is the study investigating?

  • Children with ASD have a higher prevalence of mental health problems than typically developing children, including anxiety and low mood, disruptive, and repetitive behaviours. Research shows that severe social difficulties represent a cost to the NHS and social care across childhood and adulthood.
  • Social Stories™ are purported to promote calmer classrooms with improved learning/better integration in special and mainstream education settings, and improved social behaviours. Within the research literature, it has been suggested that Social Stories™ can improve a range of behaviours including social interaction, decision making, reduced disruptive behaviours, tantrums and frustration in children with ASD.
  • Numerous schools employ a Social Stories™ intervention despite the fact there is no clear evidence base for its effectiveness. This RCT aims to comprehensively address this deficit.

What will the school be asked to do?

  • An associated teacher employed by each school is required to set a behavioural goal for the participating child (with assistance from the parent/guardian, where possible) prior to the commencement of the intervention.
  • An educational professional (the interventionist) who is employed by each school allocated to the intervention arm will deliver the Social Stories™ intervention to children. The educational professional may vary between the schools (such as a teacher, TA, SENCO etc.).
  • The interventionist will be provided with a training manual and will attend a three-hour Social Stories™ training session providing information on their design and implementation. Parents of children randomised to the intervention arm will also be invited to attend these sessions to help with story construction though this is not a requirement for participation. During the training session the interventionist will construct a Social Story™ with input from the research team. The Social StoryTM training involves working through a checklist of criteria to ensure the Social StoryTM is fit for purpose.
  • Participating children allocated to the intervention group will receive a Social Story™ delivered by the interventionist for a period of approximately 4 weeks alongside their usual care which is likely to vary between schools. The interventionist will deliver the Social Story™ at least 6 times in this 4 week period.

Inclusion and exclusion criteria

Inclusion criteria:

  • The child is aged 4-11 years.
  • The child attends a participating school in Yorkshire and Humber.
  • The child has a clinical diagnostic criteria diagnosis of ASD and daily challenging behaviour.
  • Parents/guardians of the child are able to self-complete the English language outcome measures (or complete with assistance)
  • The child is willing to give assent and the parent/guardian is able to give consent

Exclusion criteria:

  • The school has used Social Stories™ for any pupil in the current or preceding school term.
  • The child or interventionist teacher has taken part in the ASSSIST feasibility study. We will not exclude schools that have taken part.
  • The parent/guardian is unable to fill in the questionnaires (e.g. they cannot understand the questionnaire)

This project is being run by Dr Shirley-Anne Paul.

Express interest or find out more

If you would like to express interest or find out more about this project, please fill in the contact form below.

Someone from the research team will then get back to you as soon as possible