A Social Story is descriptive, short; situation-event or activity focused. It will provide specific information on what to expect during a particular situation, event or activity and why.
Social Story & Social Stories were originally created by Carol Gray in 1991. For a detailed explanation on the history of what a Social Story is; click here.
What are Social Stories for?
Social Stories can help an autistic individual to:
- Cope with changes to routine/ unexpected events.
For example; if your child will have a new teacher in school, a Social Story is a great tool to helping them understand the change that is happening and offer reassurance that despite the change happening, everything will be fine.
- Help predict how others may behave or respond.
A Social Story can be used to explain to an autistic individual how someone else may respond in a particular situation.
For example: Meeting new friends for the first time – a Social Story can help the autistic individual to understand about greetings, shaking hands, conversations, appropriate behaviours.
- Help understand expectations
Social Stories can help an autistic individual understand what they should do in order to behave appropriately in a situation where their behaviours may be deemed inappropriate.
For example: How to cope when feeling frustrated and angry.
- Understand the perspective of others.
A Social Story can help an autistic individual understand the perspective of another. For example: A Social Story explaining why we shouldn’t hit each other and how it might make another person feel.
- Daily Living Skills.
Social Stories are an excellent tool to explain to an autistic individual how to carry out daily living skills. For example: Learning to say thank you- Learning to take of your own hygiene needs.
How do Social Stories help Autistic Individuals?
- Social stories present information in a focused way. They provide a literal concrete interpretation of what may occur.
- Social Stories can be adapted to suit the intellectual capacity of the individual. For some Autistic Individuals, using a mix of pictures and words helps them to understand a situation, for others using just words is enough.
- Social Stories can help an Autistic Individual to understand a Past Event that they previously found confusing, by explaining the event to them in terms they can understand.
- Social Stories can help order sequence of events for the Autistic Individual.
- Social Stories can help with (Executive functioning) planning & organizing for an event (for the return to school after the holidays).
- Social Stories help us to understand the Autistic Individuals point of view on a situation or event.
How to Write a Social Story.
According to Carol Gray there are 3 facets to consider when writing a Social Story:
- Picture the Goal
- Gather Information
- Tailor the Text
Picture the Goal
You need to have a specific goal in mind for the story. If you are trying to achieve multiple goals within one story you may find that the Autistic Individual becomes overwhelmed and the message the story is trying to convey may become lost in translation.
Be specific with what teachable lesson you want the story to convey. Consider the social story’s purpose.
For example- teaching a child why they must wash their hands after using the bathroom.
You need to think about what the child needs to understand about this task and then go about finding the correct way to teach this lesson through a Social Story. Ex. Teaching the child about the spread of germs if he/she does not wash their hands.
You will need to gather information about the situation/event you are describing within the Social Story.
Where does the event occur?
How will it begin & end?
Who may involved in this event?
What is used in the event?
Length of time the event will last?
Why is it important to do this activity (ex. washing hands)
Think about the language you will use in the Social Story, be specific if it is a definite outcome or used alternate language if it will not have a definite outcome, for example using “sometimes, usually”.
Content & Language used needs to be age & intellectually appropriate for the intended reader. Consider their ability to understand and attention span.
It needs to be of interest to the Autistic person. If for example you are creating a social story about washing hands, include characters from the child’s favourite Cartoons if you feel this will garner their attention.
Tailor the Text
According to Carol Gray’s bestselling book “The New Social Story”, you need to ensure that your Social Story-
- Answers six questions: where, when, who, what, how and why?
- Has a title, introduction, body and conclusion
- Uses patient and supportive language.
- Should be made up of descriptive and/or coaching sentences
A Coaching sentence is one which gently guides the reader to help them reach a destination of understanding (ex. If I am angry I can take 5 deep breaths, whereas a descriptive sentence describes accurately the 6 questions that must be answered (ex. On December 31st it will be New Year’s Eve).
How to use Social Stories?
According to Carol Gray there are several ways to use a Social Story-
- Present the social story at a time when everyone is relaxed and calm, ready to engage.
- Consider ways to aid comprehension, would making the story interactive help the Autistic Individual understand more easily?
- Find ways to support the story afterwards. Such as create a Visual Poster of what has been learning within the story, ex- taking 5 breaths when feeling angry.
- Consider how often the story needs to be reviewed with the Autistic person.
- Consider if the story is working as effectively as you want and alter it if you think it is not.
- Keep your stories organized so you can access them easily to use again or add additional information.
Social Story Resources
Here you will find links to a multitude of excellent Social Story Resources.
Some are free and others need to be purchased! If you have any recommendations I would love to hear about them!!
- The New Social Story Book
- Successful Social Stories for Young Children with Autism
- Revealing the hidden social code
- Research Autism’s evaluation of social stories
- Books Beyond Words story app
- Visual supports for people with autism: a guide for parents and professional
Below you will find some Social Stories I have available as a FREE download here on Little Puddins.