Temper tantrums during transitions? Hitting during recess? Inappropriate topics during conversation?
Social stories provide an educational visual to address specific social situations. Verbal explanation of social interactions may be difficult for children to fully comprehend, so visuals can provide additional information.
What are Social Stories?
- Social stories were first introduced and described by Carol Gray as an intervention strategy to teach appropriate social interactions through the elements of a simple story. Social stories outline social concepts and skills in an easy step-by-step manner. They were originally developed for children with autism, but can be beneficial for any child with pragmatic and language disorders.
- Social stories can be a proactive or reactive strategy. Implementing social stories as a proactive measure involves presenting the story before an upcoming social event or situation. If a child is going on a fieldtrip, a social story can outline the new schedule for the day in order to prepare the child for the change in routine. For upcoming play dates, it can give examples on polite ways to share toys.
- They may also be used for reactive measures, specifically for negative behaviors. For instance, if a child is hitting other kids on the playground, a social story can explain why this behavior is not appropriate while offering new, positive behaviors. They should not be the only source of intervention, especially for negative behaviors. Social stories can provided the child with positive alternatives for negative behaviors in a direct, simple fashion. After the child has been presented with the information, speech-language pathologists, teachers, and/or caregivers can help the child develop the appropriate behavior skills.
Why do social stories work?
- Theory of mindis the ability to understand another person’s feelings, perspective, and beliefs. Children with autism often struggle with understanding theory of mind. They can only see their perspective of the story. Consider a child grabbing a toy out of another person’s hand. The child wanted that toy and decided to take it. For a child with autism, that may be the only perspective they understand. It may be challenging to realize that the classmate was sad when the toy was taken away.
- Lacking theory of mind creates problems in social situations and can make social society rules seem confusing and difficult. Social stories allow children the opportunity to learn about the other person’s perspective. The stories will outline how the other child feels and why it was hurtful. It takes the guesswork out of social situations and provides strategies or skills to implement in a given situation.
When should you use social stories?
Social stories can be implemented in a variety of opportunities. Below are a few examples.
- Establish rules and expectations
- Address negative behaviors
- Present new social situations (birthday parties, play dates, social groups)
- Address personal hygiene
- Address personal space
- Describe feelings
- Selecting appropriate social topics
Social stories are intended for specific situations and events in the child’s life. Create or implement social stories that are relevant and meaningful in the child’s everyday activities.
Next week on the blog, we will discuss how to create a social story. In the meantime, explore these, here.
Cosgrave, Gavin. “Social Stories.” Token Economy – Educate Autism, www.educateautism.com/social-stories.html.
“Social Stories.” PBIS World RSS, www.pbisworld.com/tier-2/social-stories/.
Vicker, Beverly. “Indiana University Bloomington.” IIDC – The Indiana Institute on Disability and Community at Indiana University,