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Learning Center Experience
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
affects an estimated one in 88 children in America. Sadly, there exist few
scientifically proven treatments for the condition, which interferes with
children’s capacity to respond to the world around them.
That’s a problem that Dr. Lisa Wright, a faculty member in
Kaplan University’s Department of Educational Studies, hopes to help solve.
In cooperation with Rebecca
McCathren from the University of Missouri, Lisa conducted research on the use
of what educators call “social stories,” individualized narratives that help
youngsters on the autistic spectrum think more flexibly and better understand
The research was published in
the June 2012 edition of the journal Child
“It supports the use of social
stories as an intervention,” said Dr. Wright, a former physical therapist who
received her doctorate in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Missouri. “Each of
the children in our study showed modest improvements.”
First developed by autism
expert Carol Gray, social stories can help children learn the kinds of social
skills that typically developing children acquire much more easily.
For example, a 4-year-old might
learn what it means to share by reading a social story about two little boys
who take turns playing with a truck. Similarly, a child who is upset by
unexpected events such as a fire drill, the arrival of a new teacher or a
dentist appointment might read a social story that acquaints him or her with
what will happen in those situations.
“What’s great about social
stories is that they’re really easy to create, and they don’t feel like an
intervention,” said Dr. Wright. “You feel as though you’re just reading a book
with your child.”
Dr. Wright’s research on
social stories took place in an early childhood special education classroom and
a private preschool classroom over the course of a school year. The classroom
teachers were trained on how to use the social story intervention, and social
stories were used in the classrooms as well as at home.
Dr. Wright hopes to share her
research with her students at Kaplan University, some of whom work or are
hoping to work with children on the autistic spectrum.
“So many of my students come
with professional experience that you don’t see in students at brick-and-mortar
institutions,” she said. “They have wonderful experience working with children
and this is so valuable for the entire class.”
Kaplan University’s online platform
allows her to inject depth and spontaneity into her teaching, she
In one instance, when a
student asked a question about how infant hearing is assessed, she was able to
instantly access a video of the procedure to show them.
Most important, however,
“Kaplan University students and faculty are a great group of people,” Lisa
said. “I love teaching here.”
To read the full text of
Lisa’s research, Utilizing Social Stories
to Increase Prosocial Behavior and Reduce Problem Behavior in Young, click here.
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