Introduction determine the effect reading social stories

Introduction

Social stories are used as a
learning tool to provide information about social situations that a person may
find challenging or confusing. They are often used as an intervention to reduce
disruptive behaviors and teach behavior skills to students with autism spectrum
disorders (ASD). Social stories can also be used in early childhood special
education (ECSE) programs to teach social skills to children with developmental
delays. One
tool that can help children with developmental delays understand social
situations is the use of social stories (Crozier & Tincani, 2007).

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The
purpose of this research study is to determine the effect reading social stories has on the quality of ECSE
students’ play skills in an inclusive preschool classroom.

Social Stories

Social
stories were developed in 1991 by Carol Gray as a way to improve the social skills of people with autism
spectrum disorders (ASD). A social story is a short, simple
story written from the perspective of the child that provides instruction on
appropriate social behaviors (Gray & Garand, 1993). Social stories describe
typical reactions of others in a situation and give examples of appropriate
social responses. They also
attempt to help the reader or listener understand the multiple perspectives
that can coexist in a social situation (Gray, 2004). Social stories are
written to be age-appropriate and within the comprehension level of the
audience. A teacher may write a
social story to help children negotiate a specific social situation that they
often encounter or find difficult.

Social
stories contain a prescribed mix of the following types of sentences:
descriptive, perspective, directive, and affirmative (Gray & Garand, 1993).
Authors follow a defined process
that begins with gathering information, discovering a topic that ‘fits’ the audience,
and then developing personalized text and illustrations (Gray, 2018).

Early Childhood Special Education

Students who have a diagnosed disability or show a demonstrated
need in two or more of the following area(s) of development: cognition,
social/emotional behavior skills, adaptive, physical (gross or fine motor), and
communication are eligible to receive ECSE services in the state of Minnesota. Many ECSE students attend an inclusive preschool classroom.

Inclusive education is
educating children with special educational needs together with their typically
developing peers in a natural environment (de Groot Kim, 2005). Inclusive
education improves the social skills and friendships of children with special
educational needs (Ryndak & Alper, 1992).

Social Skills in Early Childhood

The term
social skills has been defined in many different ways. Gresham and Elliot
(1984) defined social skills as socially acceptable learned behaviors that
enable a person to interact with others in ways that elicit positive responses
and assist in avoiding negative responses.

Prosocial skills are socially acceptable
learned behaviors that enable an individual to interact effectively with others
and to avoid or escape negative social interactions with others (Gresham &
Elliott, 1990).

 

Effective social functioning is a critical
factor in child development. Research has shown that children who lack
personal/social skills can display a variety of problems, ranging from social
withdrawal, shyness and isolation, to aggression and anti-social behavior
(Herbert, 1997). Establishing
successful relationships with one’s peers is one of the most important accomplishments
of early childhood (Guralnick, 1986).

Difficulties with social skill acquisition
may be related to delays in physical development, communication methods, and/or
social awareness that limit a child’s ability to progress along a typical
social developmental trajectory (Odom et al., 2008).  Effects of impaired social development may
include: poor academic achievement, social failure, peer rejection, anxiety,
depression, and substance abuse (Bellini,
2006; LaGreca & Lopez, 1998; Rao, Beidel, Murray, 2008; Spence, 2003; Welsh
et al., 2001).

As a preventive strategy,
early intervention is needed to improve skills related to social competence
during childhood and to address long-term implications for social competence in
adulthood (Kamps & Tankersley, 1996; Odom, McConnell, & McEvoy, 1992). Many
times, intervention is required for young children with disabilities to acquire
prosocial skills. These children often do not acquire social skills on their
own (Gresham, 1981).

During early childhood, especially around the
age of 3, children use their social skills to interact with peers during play (Schneider
& Goldstein, 2008). Guralnick and colleagues suggest that
young children with developmental disabilities need systematic interventions
and time devoted to peer play to learn the behaviors necessary for
participation in social situations (Guralnick, Hammond, & Connor, 2006).

Play Skills

The
Oxford dictionary defines the verb play as to “engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a
serious or practical purpose” or to “take part in.” Play
is often described as a child’s work, and is the means by which preschool
children develop communication and social skills. Researchers have indicated
play is a distinct domain that can be linked to other developmental domains
(Lifter, Foster-Sanda, Arzamarski, Briesch, & McClure, 2011; Stagnitti et
al., 2011).

 Play is the most natural of childhood
activities (Hughes, 2003). Children with disabilities must often learn play
skills and often lack the needed play skills that cause problems with
maintaining friendships, which has long-term ramifications on social awareness
and acceptance (Dishion, Patterson, Stoolmiller, & Skinner, 1991; Gertner,
Rice, & Hadley, 1994; Greenwood, Walker, & Utley, 2002; Rice, Sell,
& Hadley, 1991).

A study by Nabors, Badawi, & Cheney
showed 3-year-olds with developmental disabilities spend less time in
cooperative peer play and more time in solitary or nonsocial play (Nabors, Badawi,
& Cheney, 1997).  Lloyd and Howe
(2003) found that children who are turning 4 and spend a large amount of time
in solitary, nonsocial play, are at risk of later cognitive and social
difficulties. These studies have allowed researchers to conclude that 3-year-olds
with disabilities, or who may be at risk of disabilities, often display
nonsocial, solitary play skills that lack sophistication and social relatedness
to peers (Stahmer, 1995; Strain, Schwartz, & Bovey, 2008). Additional
studies have shown that children with special needs placed in mainstreaming
classes during the preschool period were neither able to initiate interaction
with their peers on their own, particularly in unstructured activities such as
free-time games (Odom & Watts, 1991). Increasing play skills for children
with disabilities can lead to increased language, social skills, and cognitive
growth (Delano & Snell, 2006; Girolametto, Pearce, & Weitzman, 1997;
Johnson, Christie, & Yawkey, 1999; Tsai, 2013).

Kokina
and Kern (2010) reviewed 18 studies in which researchers used social story
interventions to affect social behavior. Of the 18 studies reviewed, only one
included participants under the age of five. The remaining 17 articles reviewed
included only school-age participants (ages 5-15). Although the evidence-base
of social stories has been increasing, there is still minimal research with
preschool-age participants (Crozier & Tincani, 2007).

This
research study will focus on the impact of
reading social stories on the interactions and quality of ECSE students’ play
skills, including: how often each student plays independently, plays with
peers, asks if they can join their peers, invites peers to play, knows
appropriate ways to join an activity with peers, responds appropriately to peer
interactions, and plays collaboratively at an activity for a predetermined
amount of time.

Statement
of Hypothesis

Appropriate
play skills of ECSE students in an inclusive preschool classroom will increase
after being read social stories on how to initiate play, join peers at an
activity, and respond appropriately to peer interaction.