In this study, all participants reached a mastery criterion during performance probes with the experimenter for all 18 of the social skills taught using the teaching interaction procedure. By contrast, mastery was reached for only 4 of the 18 social skills taught using social stories. During generalization probes with adults, the participants displayed high levels of social skills taught with the teaching interaction procedure and lower levels of the social skills taught using the social stories. This second finding may be expected because more social skills reached the mastery criterion with the teaching interaction procedure than with social stories.
These results are similar to previous research findings on the teaching interaction procedure, in that participants reliably learned new social skills and met a stringent mastery criterion. In addition, for several participants, there was substantial generalization of skills from probes with adults to probes with peers (Leaf et al., 2010
). Results also are consistent with previous research findings on social stories. In the present study, participants displayed considerable variability in learning new skills using social stories. In the existing literature, social stories have been associated with slight behavior changes (e.g., Dodd, Hupp, Jewell, & Krohn, 2008
) and substantial behavior changes (e.g., Delano & Snell, 2006
) across participants and across skills. In the present study, one participant (Buddy) showed substantial improvement on all three of the skills taught with social stories almost as quickly as skills taught with the teaching interaction procedure. In contrast, two participants (Hank and Nick) showed little improvement in skills taught with social stories and relatively rapid improvement in skills taught with the teaching interaction procedure.
Although results of this study showed that, for our participants, the teaching interaction procedure resulted in greater learning in a shorter period of time compared to social stories, the reasons for these differences were not determined. It is possible that the timing of probes differentially affected the two procedures. We conducted probes prior to teaching. In contrast, in the majority of studies that have evaluated the effects of social stories, probes were implemented soon after social story teaching (Kokina & Kern, 2010
). An additional possibility is that the stringent mastery criterion (three consecutive sessions of displaying 100% of the skill steps in performance probes with adults) differentially affected the outcomes. In previous research on social stories, the authors looked at trends in the data (e.g., Crozier & Tincani, 2005
), had no stated mastery criterion (e.g., Barry & Burlew, 2004
), or had a less stringent mastery criterion (e.g., Delano & Snell, 2006
). Therefore, it may have been more difficult for participants to meet the mastery criterion in this study than in the previous research with social stories.
We suggest, however, that other factors more likely influenced the outcomes of the present study. One factor was that the procedures involved in the teaching interaction procedure more closely resembled the probe testing than did the social stories procedure. Perhaps the most important component in the teaching interaction procedure was role playing (rehearsal), in which participants had the opportunity to practice the desired social skills. The probes for learning involved displaying the skill in a similar situation, although in the absence of any explicit prompts or consequences from the researcher. Gray and Garand (1993)
recommended the use of role playing with social stories. However, role playing is rarely implemented in the published literature on social stories and was not implemented in the present study.
Role playing has been well established in the research as an important component of teaching children with and without autism a variety of skills other than social skills (e.g., Kifer, Lewis, Green, & Phillips, 1974
; Poche, Brouwer, & Swearingen, 1981
; Schrandt, Townsend, & Poulson, 2009
). Role playing provides opportunities for participants to practice the social skills in conditions similar to those in the natural environment and allows the participants to receive both positive and corrective feedback for practicing the social skills during teaching. Thus, rehearsal and feedback may increase the likelihood of participants learning the social skills and generalizing the learned skills to somewhat different situations.
Another component that has been shown to be effective in teaching children with autism is demonstration (modeling) (e.g., Charlop & Milstein, 1989
; Charlop & Walsh, 1986
). Demonstration is an essential component of video modeling (e.g., Charlop & Walsh, 1986
), which has been found to be effective in teaching numerous social skills to children with autism. Demonstration also was an essential component of the teaching interaction procedure but was not included with the social stories. Demonstration of the social behavior gives participants opportunities to observe how to perform the desired social skill accurately. Children with ASD may not fully understand the social skills by simply reading or listening to a description of the behavior. Thus, a teacher's demonstration may provide a more complete and clear illustration of the specific steps the participant needs to perform. In addition, the demonstration component of the teaching interaction procedure allows teachers to highlight or emphasize parts of the skill that participants may be struggling with and allows the participants to practice particular parts of a skill that need to be improved.
Results of this study raised several questions that may serve as a basis for future research. First, the teaching interaction procedure consisted of multiple components (e.g., rationales, modeling, and demonstration), and it is not known if all of these components are necessary for increasing social behavior. Component analyses should be conducted to determine which steps are needed and which steps are not needed for producing behavior change.
Second, we implemented the social stories with comprehension checks rather than with role playing. As noted earlier, role playing may be an important component in increasing social behavior. Social stories with role playing could be compared to the teaching interaction procedure to determine if role playing increases the effectiveness of social stories. If the teaching interaction procedure still is more effective than social stories with role playing, then it may indicate the importance of teacher demonstration in increasing social behavior for children and adolescents with autism.
Third, future research could further examine participants' generalization of social skills to their peers. In the present study, we measured generalization of social skills with peers pre- and postintervention for only two participants (Apollo and Mickey). The purpose of teaching social skills to children and adolescents with autism is for them to display these skills with their peers; therefore, future researchers may wish to have demonstration of social skills towards peers as their main measure.