Cost-utility analysis of Social Stories™ for children with autism spectrum disorder in mainstream primary schools: results from a randomised controlled trial

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BACKGROUND: One in 57 children are diagnosed with autism in the UK, and the estimated cost for supporting these children in education is substantial. Social Stories™ is a promising and widely used intervention for supporting children with autism in schools and families. It is believed that Social Stories™ can provide meaningful social information to children that can improve social understanding and may reduce anxiety. However, no economic evaluation of Social Stories has been conducted.

AIMS: To assess the cost-effectiveness of Social Stories through Autism Spectrum Social Stories in Schools Trial 2, a multi-site, pragmatic, cluster-randomised controlled trial.

METHOD: Children with autism who were aged 4-11 years were recruited and randomised ( N = 249). Costs measured from the societal perspective and quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) measured by the EQ-5D-Y-3L proxy were collected at baseline and at 6-month follow-up for primary analysis. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio was calculated, and the uncertainty around incremental cost-effectiveness ratios was captured by non-parametric bootstrapping. Sensitivity analyses were performed to evaluate the robustness of the primary findings.

RESULTS: Social Stories is likely to result in a small cost savings (-£191 per child, 95% CI -767.7 to 337.7) and maintain similar QALY improvements compared with usual care. The probability of Social Stories being a preferred option is 75% if society is willing to pay £20 000 per QALY gained. The sensitivity analysis results aligned with the main study outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS: Compared with usual care, Social Stories did not lead to an increase in costs and maintained similar QALY improvements for primary-aged children with autism.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere123
Number of pages8
JournalBJPsych Open
Issue number4
Early online date3 Jun 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2024

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© The Author(s), 2024.

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