3.1 Social stories
Social stories are used to support children on the autistic spectrum to develop appropriate knowledge and understanding to cope with daily social situations, such as break times or taking turns. They allow the child to rehearse activities, understand social cues and gain an awareness of the social rules that exist in different situations.
A social story is a short, descriptive story, using simple language and – very often – illustrations. It aims to provide accurate information relating to social situations.
‘Social story tips and sample’ gives more information, which may inspire you to have a go at creating a story to share with the children you work with.
SOCIAL STORY TIPS AND SAMPLE
The following is an example of a social story explaining when it’s appropriate to run.
I like to run. It is fun to go fast.
It’s OK to run when I am playing outside.
I can run when I am on the playground.
Sometimes I feel like running, but it is dangerous to run when I am inside.
Running inside could hurt me or other people.
When people are inside, they walk.
Walking inside is safe.
I will try to walk inside and only run when I am outside on the playground.
My teachers and parents like it when I remember to walk inside.
Writing a Social Story
Begin by observing the child in the situation you are addressing. Try to take on the child’s perspective and include aspects of his or her feelings or views in the story. Also, include usual occurrences in the social situation and the perspective of others along with considering possible variations.
There are three types of sentences used in writing social stories:
- Descriptive sentences: objectively define anticipated events where a situation occurs, who is involved, what they are doing and why. (e.g. When people are inside, they walk.)
- Perspective sentences: describe the internal status of the person or persons involved, their thoughts, feelings or moods. (e.g. Running inside could hurt me or other people.)
- Directive sentences: are individualised statements of desired responses stated in a positive manner. They may begin ‘I can try…’ or ‘I will work on…’ Try to avoid sentences starting with ‘do not’ or definitive statements. (e.g. I will try to walk inside.)
A social story should have 3 to 5 descriptive and perspective sentences for each directive sentence. Avoid using too many directive sentences. They will be lost without adequate contextualisation. Write in the first person and on the child’s developmental skill level. Also remember to use pictures that fit within the child’s developmental skill level to supplement text.
Broek, E., Cain, S.L., Dutkiewicz, M., Fleck, L., Grey, B., Grey, C., et al. (1994). The Original Social Story Book. Arlington, TX: Future Education. www.thegraycenter.org