A Social Story is a short story that describes a situation or a skill you’d like a child to develop. The Social Story can explain what you’d like the child to do when faced with a challenging situation. They are often used with great success with children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), other processing disorders or with any child facing a challenging situation.
I use social stories with my son William all the time. He has autism and can get frustrated and upset when things change, when he is in a challenging situation or when he doesn’t know what is going to happen. Reading a Social Story can explain to a child what the schedule is for the day, rules they should follow and give them strategies when they are upset. When my son was younger I used pictures as well as text, now I only use words. And in a pinch I can write a social story in a couple of minutes.
Jason M. Wallin states “Social Stories are a tool for teaching social skills to children with autism and related disabilities. Social stories provide an individual with accurate information about those situations that he may find difficult or confusing. The situation is described in detail and focus is given to a few key points: the important social cues, the events and reactions the individual might expect to occur in the situation, the actions and reactions that might be expected of him, and why. The goal of the story is to increase the individual’s understanding of, make him more comfortable in, and possibly suggest some appropriate responses for the situation in question.”
Mr. Wallin’s website is a great resource that explains Social Stories in less technical terms.
For further information please go to Carol Gray’s website and watch the videos and read one of her books describing how to write a Social Story. Once you understand the basics you can write one for a specific child.
I use boardmaker pictures in my visuals because I own the software. Boardmaker — Mayer-Johnson (I am not recommending you buy this software because it is very expensive. Rather I am sending you to this website for an example of visuals supports.) You can use clipart for visuals or pictures from your camera.
When one of my friends was a Primary President she asked me to write a social story for a child in her ward that was having a difficult time transitioning into Sunbeams from the Nursery. I wrote an easily adaptable social story a teacher could read to the child. I didn’t know whether the child had a female or male teacher so I included a picture of both. I tried to tailor it to the child by mentioning the fun parts of primary: singing time and seeing friends. I appealed to his eagerness to be a “big boy” and told him his parents would be proud of him. I briefly explained the schedule: first singing time, then class. Knowing what the schedule is increases children’s feelings of control. I included strategies for when sitting appropriately was hard: asking for a hug and sitting on a teacher’s lap. If the child had a security item I would have included asking for it as a strategy when upset.
Children who cannot read the stories often have pictures included in their social stories. Here is a social story example I found online on Staying Calm.
Social Stories can be an incredibly useful tool for children who need reassurance, need to know what the schedule is or to remember to use strategies when faced with difficult situations. I have been amazed how much it helps my son. Last summer when we were flying home from a vacation he started yelling on the airplane. I wrote a social story in two minutes and when I read it to him he stopped yelling immediately. Social Stories are not effective with all children but when they are effective they can be a very useful tool.
If you have a child that you think would benefit from a social story your library might have a book available, or you could ask the library to buy a book as a resource. I found My Social Stories Book very useful. Parents can also ask their child’s teacher or therapists if they use Social Stories and if they will write one for a particular situation.
You could also print out your own pictures. It could be helpful to a child if they saw a picture of their own teacher, chorister and primary room.