Social stories are often used to to explain social situations to autistic children and help them learn ways of behaving in these situations.
The use of social stories have gained popularity among parents and educators since they were developed in 1991 and are widely used to help support neurodivergent children learning.
In this ultimate guide, the MyCareSpace team have delved deeper into the what you need to know about social stories and how they can benefit your autistic child, including:
- Check the person’s communication ability: It’s really important to know how much someone understands before you write a story for them.
- Keep it simple: Social stories should be written in a clear and concise manner, using simple language that is easy to understand. Avoid using complex language or technical terms that may be difficult for the individual to understand. Simple white backgrounds help to eliminate other visual distractions and put the foucs on the photos and text.
- Focus on one event at a time: 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.
- Use pictures to support the text: Photos or illustrations can greatly enhance the effectiveness of a social story. Visual aids can help the individual understand the situation and the expected behavior more easily. Tip: include photos of the environment and real people in your story where possible – this will make it more relatable.
- Include the actual words or phrases the child needs to say: E.g. include what a child should say (i.e., “Trick or treat!”) when at a house so that the child can repeat that exact phrase correctly while actually trick-or-treating.Social stories should include 2-5 descriptive or perspective sentences for each directive sentence. Social stories written in this manner have been found to be more successful.
- Answer the ‘WH’ questions: Social stories should always include descriptive sentences, which answer the WH questions like when, who, what, where, why, and how.
- Involve the person: Social Stories are most successful when the person themselves is involved in the process. Ask them what colour they want the front cover to be and what photos they would like for the book. It’s also good to check the story over with the person before producing the final version.
- Describe how the child or others should react or feel: 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 at a funeral.
- Write the social story in the first person and the present tense: Write it from the perspective of the child. It will help them relate to the story!
- 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. Reword any negative or unexpected behaviors as positively as you can.
- Revise and Rework: Once the story is written, it is important to review and revise it as needed. This may involve getting feedback from the individual with autism, or from others who know them well. Revisions should be made based on the individual’s specific needs and goals, and should aim to make the story as clear and effective as possible.
- Support the person to read the story and practice the strategies: Success with Social Stories happens with consistency and support. Have the story available to the person throughout the day and refer to it. Talk about the strategies and reinforce the positive messages.