Are you having a hard time getting your child to understand social situations or learn a new skill? Did you know there is an effective tool out there that is easy to use and fun? What is it?
Here is a quick and easy guide to social stories. In this article, I will show you what a social story is – and how you can easily make and use them at home.
What The Heck Is A Social Story?
Children with autism often need help navigating social situations. Knowing intuitively how to act and what to say may be difficult, especially since some children on the spectrum struggle with understanding social cues, have speech delays or sensory issues, or focus on repetitive behaviors and/or stimming.
Simple greetings and social graces may come easy to neurotypical kids, but sometimes getting a child with autism to say “hello” to someone can be quite the task!
Social stories can help make these situations less overwhelming.
A social story is a narrative about different situations or skills that a child may experience. It uses simple language and pictures so kids can easily understand and visualize the story.
Almost any topic can be used in a social story. You can write about big life milestones like the first day of school or going on vacation. Stories can also be about everyday situations, like getting ready for bed or going to the store. Stories also can teach skills, like how to greet a friend or how to pick up toys.
Social stories are a wonderful tool that helps kids learn how to act and what to say in almost any social scenario. Sometimes verbal cues are not enough to teach concepts to kids with autism. Social stories helps kids see the skill or situation, which in turn reinforces understanding.
How To Create A Social Story
Typically the child reading the story is the main character! Most of the kids I’ve worked with love having a story written about them. Writing the story from this point of view helps place the child in the setting so they can relate better.
The structure of the story starts with a descriptive sentence, followed by a perspective sentence, then a cooperative sentence and lastly an affirmative sentence.
Here is an example to give you a better idea:
I play with toys everyday: Descriptive sentence describes the situation. Sometimes I get upset when I have to stop playing: Perspective expresses characters view of the situation. When I get upset I can take deep breaths: Cooperative shows an action character can use to work through situations. It is good to stay calm when I have to be done playing. Affirmative affirms the desired behavior character uses.
With each sentence you can draw simple stick figure illustrations to correspond to the story. Stories can simply be written on notebook or printer paper folded in half.
Depending on the age of the child you can get them to help come up with the wording or draw pictures. They also enjoy being an author or illustrator.
How to Use Social Stories
A social story can be used at any time anywhere! The important thing to note is that the social story needs to relate to your child’s life.
Before starting a story think of a skill that your child needs to learn or an encounter they may experience. Is there a skill your child struggles with? Is there something they need to learn? Is there an event coming up your child needs to prepare for? Answering these questions will help you determine the topic.
If you are helping your child acquire a new skill you can read a social story before practicing the skill. For example if your child is learning to make his bed you can read the story before making the bed. If your child is heading out to an event you can read the corresponding social story in advance to help prepare them for the event. Let’s say your child has a doctor’s appointment in a month, you could read the story over the course of a month so she knows what to expect when she gets to the appointment.
You don’t have to read the stories just at home though. Stories can be taken along to the store, read in the car or kids can bring them to school!
Social stories are an effective and fun tool to use when it comes to helping kids through skills or situations. I have had great success with my clients over the years thanks to social stories. In fact when I’m struggling trying to get an idea across to one of my kids I think, “let’s make a social story about this,” and only then is my child able to better grasp the concept.
If you are struggling with helping your child with something try making a social story!
Elizabeth Purpero is a licensed school counselor and licensed professional counselor-in-training. She has her master’s in counseling psychology. Elizabeth has worked as an autism therapist with children and teens. During her career, she has worked in intensive at-home therapy programs utilizing ABA and play therapy along with OT and speech therapy techniques. She has also worked as a mental health therapist helping clients address their mental health issues as it relates to autism. Elizabeth’s background working with the autism community has greatly helped her work with students in schools too. She has helped teachers implement effective strategies, create goals for IEP’s and make classrooms more sensory-friendly. Mark Twain once said, “Write what you know about,” and Elizabeth enjoys writing about autism-related topics and providing additional resources to help those impacted by autism.