ASSSIST (Autism Spectrum Social Stories In Schools Trial)
The concept of social stories was created by Carol Gray in 2000. These are simple, short stories, usually with the autistic child in the starring role, often with helpful photographs and illustrations and a theme relating to a particular social difficulty or life-skill problem. They break down the difficulty or problem into easily understood sequential stages, and include instructions on what are acceptable and preferred behaviours, and also in-built demonstrations of what positive consequences might follow if they are enacted in real life. The child reads the story with parent or teacher and, with understanding and repetition, the preferred behaviour may be adopted, a new skill acquired, or even some complex anxieties alleviated.
The ASSSIST study has the following phases:
- Preclinical theory: a systematic review examining the use of Social Stories and other social stories in autism spectrum disorders, with particular reference to an outcome of reducing challenging behaviour in mainstream school aged children.
- Phase I: a qualitative analysis, with user interviews and a user focus group, to gather information relating to the optimum design and use of Social Stories in children and young people with autism spectrum disorders. An expert writing panel will be formed and will develop a manualised Social Stories toolkit (including a training package) for use in mainstream schools.
- Phase II: a feasibility study in the form of a randomised controlled trial comparing the manualised Social Stories intervention with an attention control (demonstrating recruitment, delivery of the intervention and successful follow up).