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Social Narratives (SN)

Interventions that describe social situations in order to highlight relevant features of a target behavior or skill and offer examples of appropriate responding.

Evidence Based
Ages: Skip to Evidence

Steps for Implementation

Step 1. Identifying the Social Situation for the Intervention

  1. Refer to the learner’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP)/Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) to identify potential intervention targets.
  2. Discuss goals with team members, including family and learner.
  3. Select a social behavior that will result in positive social interactions, a safer environment, and/or additional social learning opportunities.

Step 2. Defining the Target Behavior or Skill

Clearly define the target behavior or skill so that it is observable and measurable.

Step 3. Collecting Baseline Data

  1. Determine the type of data (e.g., permanent product, assessment) needed to assess the target skill.
  2. Collect data on at least three occasions over three to five days to determine the learner’s skills prior to intervention.

Step 4. Writing the Social Narrative

  1. Write the social narrative in language that is appropriate for the learner’s age and comprehension.
  2. Consistently use first or third person, based on learner characteristics.

Step 5. Choosing Appropriate Length of Story

  1. Select a number of sentences per page that is appropriate for the learner’s functional level and age.
  2. Construct each sentence (or page) to allow the learner to focus on a specific concept.

Step 6. Including Photos, Picture Icons, or Hand-Drawn Pictures

  1. Use visuals that are appropriate for the individual learner.
  2. If appropriate, include the learner in creating or selecting pictures to include.

Step 7. Implementing the Social Narrative

  1. A. Use the social narrative as a regular part of the learner’s daily schedule.
  2. B. Read the social narrative to the learner, or encourage the learner to read it aloud or silently as part of the daily routine.

Step 8. Monitoring Learner Progress

  1. Collect data to measure the effectiveness of narrative intervention on the target behavior or skill for a minimum of two weeks.
  2. Ask others who work or live with the learner to collect data on the target behavior across settings.

Step 9. Reviewing Data and Modifying the Narrative if Necessary

  1. Depending on intervention findings, continue to use the narrative, increase use of the narrative, or adapt the narrative.
  2. When the social narrative procedures are altered (modification in narrative or frequency), change only one variable at a time.
  3. Collect and review data following each adaptation or change.

Step 10. Addressing Generalization and Maintenance of Learned Behavior or Skill

  1. Promote generalization of the target skill by including multiple peers and/or adults in the social narrative process.
  2. Promote maintenance of the target skill by fading the use of the narrative and by increasing the time between readings, and/or by having the learner progress from reading aloud to silent reading.
  3. If the learner begins to show signs of returning to target baseline levels, the social narrative is reintroduced.

Research and Outcomes

Research Summary

Age Range: 3-18

Skills: Communication, social, joint attention, play, school readiness, academic/pre-academic, adaptive/self-help, challenging/interfering behavior

Settings: Home, school, community

Evidence Rating: Evidence Based

The information found in the Research Summary table is updated following a literature review of new research and these ages, skills, and settings reflects information from this review.

Outcomes Matrix

The Outcomes Matrix shows outcome areas by age for which this evidence based practice is effective
Age: 0-5 6-14 15-22
Academic/Pre-academic Yes Yes
Challenging/Interfering Behavior Yes Yes Yes
Communication Yes Yes Yes
Joint Attention Yes Yes
Mental Health
Play Yes Yes
School Readiness Yes
Social Yes Yes Yes
More about Intervention Outcomes

Social Narratives (SN) are interventions that describe social situations in order to highlight relevant features of a target behavior or skill and offer examples of appropriate responding. Social narratives are aimed at helping learners adjust to changes in routine, adapt their behaviors based on the social and physical cues of a situation, or to teach specific social skills or behaviors. Social narratives are individualized according to learner needs and typically are quite short, often told in a story format, and often include pictures or other visual aids. Usually written in first person from the perspective of the learner, they include sentences that detail the situation, provide suggestions for appropriate learner responses, and describe the thoughts and feelings of other people involved in the situation (Steinbrenner, et al., 2020).

• Manualized Interventions Meeting Criteria: Social Stories™ (Gray, 2010).