Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counselors' Roles in Creating and Implementing Social Stories to Serve Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counselors' Roles in Creating and Implementing Social Stories to Serve Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Article excerpt

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC; 2014a), the ratio of children identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has steadily increased over the past 10 years, from 1 in 150 students in 2000, to 1 in 68 students in 2010. Although the rise in the identification of children with ASD is often accredited to increased awareness and recognition (Schieve et al., 2011), K-12 schools and their personnel need to be equipped to meet the needs of this population. School counselors are called to serve students with ASD as part of implementing a comprehensive school counseling program for all students on their caseload (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2012, 2013; Auger, 2013; Gibbons & Goins, 2008; Layne, 2007). This includes both indirect and direct services (Kaffenberger & O'Rorke-Trigiani, 2013), such as social story creation and implementation. Social stories are a strategy often used when working with children with ASD to address the social, behavioral, and communication deficits associated with the disorder (Hutchins, 2012a); however, social stories are covered minimally in the school counseling literature (e.g., Auger, 2013; Gibbons & Goins, 2008; Kaffenberger & O'Rorke-Trigiani, 2013). As a result, school counselors may benefit by learning about this widely used intervention. In this article, the authors describe a literature review on ASD and social stories; a case study of a school counselor-created and -implemented social story; and a related discussion and school counseling implications sections. The goal of this article is to illustrate a case study of a school counselor-facilitated social story using an action research lens, to increase school counselors' understanding and likelihood of using this intervention with students.


Clinical Diagnosis

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth edition, (DSM-V) ASD is defined as a neurodevelopmental disorder leading to impairments in verbal or nonverbal social communication, social interaction, and restricted interests, activities, or repetitive behavior that significantly impair social, occupational, or other areas essential to function in society (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013). This overarching ASD definition now encompasses the previous disorders known as autistic disorder, Asperger's disorder, and pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified. To parallel the DSM-V, the term ASD will be used in this article to include the disorders previously known as autistic disorder and Asperger's disorder.

Educational Identification and Services

Students with ASD may receive educational services and accommodations in the schools if found eligible. Students with ASD can receive special education services including an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) through the federal 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA). To be eligible under IDEA, students must meet the criteria for one of the 13 categories of disabilities, one of which is autism (U.S. Department of Education, 2014a). The IDEA category of autism is defined as a "developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects a child's educational performance" (U.S. Department of Education, 2014a, Regulation 300.8 C1). Roughly half of the children with ASD received special education services under the category of autism (CDC, 2014a). Students with ASD who do not meet the IDEA criteria may be eligible for education accommodations known as a 504 Plan. Students can receive 504 accommodations due to "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or have a record of such an impairment; or be regarded as having such an impairment" (U.S. Department of Education, 2014b, section 504).

Although the federal definition of autism shares many similarities with the DSM-V definition of ASD (Auger, 2013), the federal definition clearly specifies that the disorder must adversely affect a child's educational performance. …

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