Ongoing

Autism Spectrum Social Stories™ In Schools Trial 2 (ASSSIST 2)

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience lots of stress about school life and social interactions. This may cause anxiety, distress, and challenging behaviour. This can lead to parent and teacher stress, and costly out of area placements for the child. This has a high emotional, personal and financial cost to children, families and services.

Social Stories help children with ASD understand social situations. A Social Story writes the child into a story, and is tailored to giving them social information in a friendly way that helps them understand and learn healthy social behaviours. Research shows that Social Stories can reduce stress, anxiety, aggression and challenging behaviours, and improve classroom harmony and social and emotional wellbeing (Gray, 2000; Wright et al, 2016). It has not yet been tested in a large study. In order to make sure that this research was possible, we successfully tested it in a small study (n=50) (Wright et al, 2016). A guide for parents and teachers (with their help) on how to write and use Social Stories was developed which we will use in this study.

This study will be carried out in schools across Yorkshire and Humber. Each school will be randomised (e.g. like a coin toss) so that participants at that school will either read a Social Story or receive care as usual (CAU). There will be 180 participant groups. Each group will include a child with ASD (aged 4-11), the child’s teacher/teaching assistant (TA), another teacher/TA at the child’s school, and the child’s parent.

Teachers and parents will be trained in groups to write a tailored Social Story for each child.. Children in the Social Stories group will have their Social Story read to them regularly by a teacher/TA. If the intervention is shown to be helpful, at the end of the study, participants in the CAU group will be offered free Social Stories training. Usual support will be available to all families (e.g. parenting support).

We will measure social and emotional wellbeing and ASD symptoms to see if Social Stories work better than CAU. We will also use other questionnaires (e.g. for mood and anxiety) and a goal-based measure. Some of the participants will be observed in their class to monitor goal behaviour.  We will measure the costs of Social Stories and CAU to see if there are any differences between the groups (e.g. health service use, school attendance or need for extra support).