Social scripts are a prompting strategy which has been used to successfully teach students with autism to use a variety of language during social interactions. In many studies these prompts are systematically faded out and the students with autism many times continue to spontaneously communicate with peers using scripted and unscripted phrases. The use of visual prompts (or verbal prompt provided via a speech output device) have potential to be more effective than verbal prompts given by an adult because they are much easier to fade out.
In a review article by Mary Jane Weiss and Sandra L. Harris, they discussed scripts as one of the interventions to teach social skills. They cited three studies in which the researchers taught students to engage in (1) dramatic play by using socio-dramatic scripts (carnival, pet shop, and magic shop), (2) to initiate with peers using scripts of common statement or questions, and (3) to initiate with adults using scripts attached to components of their visual schedule. All three of these studies discussed had long-lasting effects and the students began using unscripted initiations.
In a study by Kara A. Reagon and Thomas S. Higbee, they trained three moms to use social scripts to teach their children to initiate verbally. Rather than a written prompt, the moms were taught to use (and fade out) verbal prompts given using a BIGmack speech output device. They found that the children’s verbal initiations increased with the target toy and with two toys for which the play scripts were not introduced.
Using social scripts as a prompting procedure to teach students to engage in more complex play, initiate and maintain conversations with peers and adults, and participate in a variety of community activities can be effective in the short and long term. The key to using social scripts (as with any other prompting procedure) is to fade them out systematically and quickly so the individual does not become dependent on the prompt.