Strategies for Inclusive Social stories and Visual Supports
Social stories and visual supports are powerful tools that can help individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities navigate social situations and daily routines. These tools provide visual and written information to help individuals understand and interpret social cues, expectations, and appropriate behaviors. Inclusive social stories and visual supports are designed to be accessible and meaningful for individuals of all abilities, ensuring that everyone can benefit from their use. In this article, we will explore strategies for creating inclusive social stories and visual supports, drawing on research and best practices in the field.
Understanding Social Stories and Visual Supports
Social stories were first introduced by Carol Gray in 1991 as a way to help individuals with ASD understand and navigate social situations. A social story is a short narrative that describes a specific social situation, event, or behavior. It uses simple language and visual supports, such as pictures or symbols, to provide information and guidance. Social stories are typically written from the individual’s perspective and focus on the specific skills or behaviors they need to learn or develop.
Visual supports, on the other hand, are visual aids that provide information, structure, and support for individuals with ASD. They can take various forms, including visual schedules, visual cues, and visual reminders. Visual supports help individuals understand and follow routines, make choices, and communicate their needs and preferences. They can be particularly helpful for individuals who struggle with verbal communication or have difficulty processing and understanding spoken language.
Creating Inclusive Social Stories
When creating inclusive social stories, it is important to consider the individual’s unique needs, preferences, and abilities. Here are some strategies to ensure that social stories are accessible and meaningful for individuals of all abilities:
- Use clear and concise language: Social stories should use simple and straightforward language that is easy to understand. Avoid using jargon, idioms, or complex sentence structures that may confuse or overwhelm the individual.
- Include visual supports: Visual supports, such as pictures, symbols, or icons, can enhance the understanding and engagement of individuals with ASD. Use visual supports to illustrate key concepts, actions, or emotions described in the social story.
- Consider sensory needs: Individuals with ASD may have sensory sensitivities or preferences. Take into account their sensory needs when creating social stories. For example, use calming colors, avoid overwhelming visual stimuli, and consider incorporating sensory supports, such as fidget toys or weighted blankets, if appropriate.
- Personalize the story: Make the social story relevant and meaningful to the individual by incorporating their interests, experiences, and preferences. Use examples and scenarios that are familiar to them to increase engagement and understanding.
- Review and revise: Social stories should be reviewed and revised regularly to ensure their effectiveness and relevance. As the individual’s skills and needs evolve, update the social story accordingly to reflect their current abilities and goals.
Implementing Visual Supports
Visual supports can be implemented in various ways to enhance communication, understanding, and independence for individuals with ASD. Here are some strategies for effectively implementing visual supports:
- Use visual schedules: Visual schedules provide a visual representation of daily routines, activities, and tasks. They help individuals understand the sequence of events and anticipate what will happen next. Visual schedules can be created using pictures, symbols, or written words, depending on the individual’s level of understanding and communication skills.
- Provide visual cues: Visual cues can be used to prompt and support desired behaviors or actions. For example, a visual cue can be a picture or symbol placed near a specific area or object to remind the individual of the appropriate behavior or action associated with it.
- Create visual reminders: Visual reminders can help individuals remember and follow specific rules, expectations, or steps. For example, a visual reminder can be a laminated card with pictures or symbols that outline the steps for washing hands or using appropriate greetings.
- Use visual supports for communication: Visual supports can facilitate communication for individuals who struggle with verbal language. Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems, such as picture exchange communication systems (PECS) or communication boards, can be used to support expressive and receptive communication.
- Teach individuals how to use visual supports: It is important to teach individuals how to use visual supports effectively. Provide explicit instruction and practice on how to use visual supports, including how to interpret and respond to visual cues, schedules, and reminders.
Research on the Effectiveness of Social Stories and Visual Supports
Research has shown that social stories and visual supports can be effective tools for individuals with ASD and other developmental disabilities. A study conducted by Gray and Garand (1993) found that social stories were effective in improving social understanding and reducing problem behaviors in individuals with ASD. Another study by Mesibov and Shea (2010) demonstrated that visual supports, such as visual schedules and cues, improved communication, independence, and task completion for individuals with ASD.
Furthermore, a meta-analysis conducted by Wong et al. (2015) examined the effectiveness of social stories and visual supports across multiple studies. The analysis found that social stories and visual supports were associated with significant improvements in social skills, adaptive behaviors, and reductions in problem behaviors for individuals with ASD.
Social stories and visual supports are valuable tools for promoting inclusion and supporting individuals with ASD and other developmental disabilities. By creating inclusive social stories and implementing visual supports effectively, we can enhance communication, understanding, and independence for individuals of all abilities. It is important to consider the unique needs, preferences, and abilities of each individual when creating and using these tools. Through research and best practices, we can continue to refine and improve the strategies for inclusive social stories and visual supports, ensuring that everyone can benefit from their use.