If you are on the autistic spectrum you may find it hard to master communication and social skills. 
In this blog we will explore a really useful tool called Social Stories to understand what they are and how they can be useful.   

Social stories™ were created by Carol Gray back in the 90s, to help autistic children prepare for and respond to situations and events.

The idea sounds simple but is very effective.  Through story telling, children can navigate different issues, gain a better understanding of how and why people behaviour and make connections. They are brilliant tools for teachers and parents to use. 

Social Stories are not only useful for the big change events like a pandemic or a school transition, but they are really useful for the everyday situations like bedtime routines or learning how to washing your hands. They detail what could happen, what should happen and why it is happening.  

At Evolve we use Social Stories in our therapy sessions together with other strategies. They help children to develop appropriate social skills and behaviours by  understanding their own behaviour and emotions and then how to address them. They can also understand more about why another person responds in a certain way and see things from their perspective.

This simple story telling helps children cope with change, transition and new stressful events in their everyday life.

What is a Social Story and why do they work?

  • A Social Story needs to reflect a social interaction for example starting a new school, getting dressed in the morning, sitting down to a family meal.
  • They break the ‘scenario or event’ into steps that you can visualise and logically follow.
  • They look at the roles everyone plays, seeing each different perspectives, responses and sets of behaviours.  
  • This helps direct you towards an end goal which is positive and successful.

We find that by presenting information in this literal way, children can better understand a new, maybe daunting, situation. They better understand what may come next and this allows them to  plan and organise.

Of course, every new experience is not always anticipated nor predictable, but by understanding what ‘could’ happen, we can build up a bank of resources which can be used in the future. These frameworks are transferable and can be tweaked to apply to similar situations.  

Knowing there is tool kit of resources available, may help inspires confidence because they know they have seen or been successful before. 

What makes a Social Story ?

  • A goal (where are you trying to get to and what is the goal you want to achieve? )
  • Reaching the goal needs to be celebrated
  • An introduction (what is the situation, who are the players?) 
  • The beloved ‘wh’ questions (who, what, where, when, why) 
  • We tell the story in the first or third person (which means we use I or name / he / she / they/ it to tell the story)  
  • Language is positive (there is nothing worse than a dull story!)
  • We break the story down into steps that are explored and understood  
  • The story needs to be relevant (stories are so much more inspiring and interested if we are interested in the content and the characters and we relate it to ourselves seeing ourselves – maybe even literally ).

So for example if you are creating a Social Story with your son, you may encourage them to draw themselves, label themselves as a character, make the situation relevant e.g. at school or at home, have a goal they maybe striving to achieve e.g. making a friend, completing a task, entering a new situation and finally have a celebration they may want to be part of.

Once a Social Story has been created, it can be adapted to a new situations and events. 

Social Story topics 

  • Developing selfcare skills  e.g. using the toilet, getting dressed 
  • Understanding how to respond and behave in a specific social situation  e.g. sharing toys, playing, making friends, playground rules 
  • Coping with change. This could be a change to a routine, experiencing an unexpected event e.g. school transition, moving house, breaking up with a friend 
  • Managing your own behaviour. e.g. Self-management if you are angry or coping with an obsession

Where can you find Social Stories? 

  • Social Story books are available to buy e.g. Successful Social Stories™ for Young Children with Autism: Growing Up with Social Stories™
  • Social Stories can also be made into social videos and are often engaging and useful for visual and auditory learners. e.g. Be like Buddy series for younger children https://youtu.be/J0GChccw7y8 
  • The best way is to create your own. These will be more personal and the development stage will allow the child to really explore all the perspectives and connections.

What can a Social Story look like?

How to write a Social Story?

  • Include the ‘problem / challenge’ in the title of the story to understand what story is about 
  • Make your story as personal as possible e.g. use engaging imagery, colouring, names, setting
  • Keep it  really positive remembering to build confidence that they can overcome the issue  
  • Identify problem triggers and where problem may occur  
  • Keep it simple, clear and direct  
  • The end of story can reinforce it’s ok to make a mistake and if it happens again they try again and do their best – resilience is so important.  

When can you use Social Stories? 

Social stories are used everyday in the classroom but they are also really useful at home.

As with a bedtime story you can read a Social Story when your child is unwinding and relaxed or you may decide to create one together and discuss the situation, relationships, behaviours etc throughout the creative process.

It is also important to leave the story with the child so they can refer back to it and this can help reinforce their learning.  

Something to note is to always review or pre-read the Social Story to make sure it is developmentally appropriate and will be interesting. You also want to make sure it reinforces what they are learning at home and in the classroom. 

Below are some useful links