The unique social challenges faced by elementary students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can interfere significantly with their ability to learn and succeed at school. Many students with ASD are capable of meeting the academic demands of the inclusive education environment but struggle to meet social and interpersonal demands. Social goals are frequently part of students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEP), but there is a clear need for social interventions for students with ASD that are evidence-based, engaging for students, feasible to implement at school, and that provide effective data about participants’ progress.
Stories in Motion is an innovative online social visualization program that empowers upper elementary students with ASD to improve their social skills by generating illustrated narratives around challenging social scenarios. Students create individualized story scripts from a bank of twelve common social challenges, including bullying, nonverbal communication, impulse control, cooperation and other areas of social difficulty. Students select graphical, behavioral, and verbal options to build stories to meet and achieve targeted goals. After creating a navigation plan for social challenges in the controlled game environment, students can view their custom stories as animated videos or printable comic books, and will continue to have access to their creations for reminders as they go on to meet real social challenges.
Stories in Motion also includes data collection and monitoring tools and its user-friendly interface enables teachers and parents to work collaboratively with students.
For testing in schools, providers completed one social challenge area per week with their students for six weeks. Students enjoyed navigating the game with their customized avatars and creating the comic book printouts, which proved very useful for review and as reference resources even for other teachers not using the intervention themselves. Providers also reported positively about the progress monitoring features, noting that they could easily record individual students’ improvements and share tips with other teachers and school staff.