What are Social Stories and How Do They Help?

What are Social Stories and How Do They Help?

What are Social Stories and How Do They Help?

Social stories for autism are an important tool for social communication especially designed for people on Autism Spectrum Disorders to educate them about appropriate social manners.  Social stories model appropriate social interaction by describing a situation with relevant social cues, other’s perspectives, and a suggested appropriate response.

Stories can be written about practically anything that your child may be struggling with from problem behaviors, such as anger or biting, to daily living skills, such as how to brush your teeth or use the potty, to unfamiliar events, such as how to act at a social gathering.

These stories are great for kids with autism because it is a visual tool. They break complex situations and behaviors down into simple, easy-to-follow steps and increase success at mastering the skill. A good social story teaches the child what the expected behaviors are, as well as the expected responses. It also describes, in detail, what the situation, event, or skill requires.

Social stories are written to:

  • Describe an unfamiliar situation or event
  • Explain social scenarios and the expected behaviors involved
  • Help with transitions, especially into new situations or events
  • Break down a target behavior or skill into easy to follow steps
  • Address a wide variety of problems, events, behaviors, etc.
  • Teach routines
  • Simplify goals, skills, events, or behaviors so that they can be easily learned and generalized
  1. IDENTIFY : Make the title of the social stories clear and concise. It should specify exactly what the social story is about. It should identify the target behavior, skill or event involved.Example: How to Tie My Shoes or Wearing Glasses Social Story
  2. FOCUS ON ONE THING : Only write about one topic per social story. You do not want to overwhelm your child. So pick one topic, such as visiting the dentist, for your social story and write only about that particular topic
  3. USE VISUAL AIDS : Most kids with autism or hyperlexia benefit from a visual support to accompany the text. Pictures aid in comprehension and help the child see what certain things about the event or thing look like (e.g., a picture of a dentist chair can show the child what the dentist’s office might look).You can use your own photos, make your own drawings, or search free stock photo or clipart websites.
  4. KEEP THE FORMAT AND LANGUAGE SIMPLE : Use a simple format for the social story by limiting the text on each page and by using simple colors and fonts to eliminate extraneous visual distractions. Using a white background also allows for the text and accompanying photo to be the main highlight of each page. Avoid metaphors, idioms, or other abstract concepts. The language should always focus on the positive. The social stories should focus on what the child should or can do and not on what the child can or cannot do. Or, at the very least, reword any negative or unexpected behaviors as positively as you can
  5. BREAK DOWN INTO SIMPLE STEPS : Try to think of every step possible involved in a certain event or skill and try to include each step in the social story. Since kids with autism or hyperlexia are literal thinkers and struggle with abstract concepts, it is best to even include the hidden implied steps that people generally take for granted.
  6. WRITE THE SOCIAL STORY IN FIRST-PERSON AND PRESENT TENSE : Write it from the perspective of the child. It will help them relate to the story. It is also important to write it in present tense to make it more relevant and realistic.
  7. INCLUDE EXACT PHRASES : Use the social stories to teach your child expected responses for the situation. For instance, wishing someone ‘Good Morning’ when you meet them.
  8. BE DESCRIPTIVE : Social stories should always include descriptive sentences, which answer the WH questions like  when, who, what, where, why, and how.Example: I brush my teeth twice a day. Once in the morning and before I go to bed. That helps keep my teeth clean.
  9. DESCRIBE HOW THE CHILD, AND OTHERS, SHOULD FEEL OR REACT : Social stories should also describe how the child should feel or react to the certain event or skill.Example: It is okay for me to cry when I feel sad.It is also important to include perspective sentences in a social story. Perspective sentences describe the feelings, thoughts, or moods of someone else. Example: My parents will be so proud of me for learning how to tie my shoes by myself!

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Sayee Deshpande
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