How to Write a Social Story

Do you know a child that is struggling with different situations?  Perhaps it is learning a new routine, participating in a conversation or playing with peers

Whatever the situation, a social story may be helpful to inform children of what they can expect and what is expected of them.

Social stories are a great tool for helping kids with autism or hyperlexia navigate the world around them. 

Social 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.

While the benefits of social stories are obvious, creating them is much more complicated. 

What is a Social Story?

Social Stories are short descriptions of a particular situation, event or activity, which include specific information about what to expect in that situation and why.

Social Stories are effective methods to provide guidance and directions for responding to various types of social situations. The stories are used to describe social situations specific to individuals and circumstances while promoting self-awareness, self-calming, and self-management. They may use images or words to present the situation.

Social stories are written to:
  • Describe an unfamiliar situation or event
  • Explain social scenarios and the expected behaviors involved
  • Help with transitions, especially into unfamiliar 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

How to write a social story

  • Picture the goal:

Consider the social story's purpose.

The first thing you need to do is to identify the situation you’d like to cover in the social story. What kinds of situations do you find your kids are struggling in?

Make the title of the social story clear and concise. It should specify exactly what the social story is about.

  • Focus on one thing or 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 story 

Most kids with autism 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.
You can use your own photos, make your own drawings, or search free stock photo or clipart websites.

  • Keep the format of the story simple

Use a simple format for the social story by limiting the text on each page and by using simple colors and fonts. Try to keep text to a minimum on each page by trying to use only 1-2 sentences per page.

  • Break down the event or thing 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 are literal thinkers and struggle with abstract concepts, it is best to even include the hidden implied steps that neurotypical people generally take for granted. For instance, when using the potty, specify that we have to pull down our underwear and pants and then when we are done, pull up our underwear and pants.

  • Include exact phrases or scripts for the child to say

Use the social stories to teach your child expected responses for the situation. For instance, in my trick-or-treating social story, I include what a child should say  "Trick or treat!" when at a house so that the child can repeat that exact phrase correctly while actually trick-or-treating.

  • Be descriptive and answer the WH questions about the event or thing. 

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. (These sentences describe how often, when, and why a child needs to brush their teeth.) 

It is also important to include perspective sentences in a social story. Perspective sentences describe the feelings, thoughts, or moods of someone else.

  • Describe exactly what the child should do 

Social stories should describe exactly what behavior is expected of the child by writing directive sentences. These directive sentences describe what the child should do during the situation or to master the skill.

These directive sentences should always be written in a positive manner (try to avoid the words "do not").

Example: When I watch a movie at the movie theatre, I will sit quietly in my seat. (A negative example would be: When I watch a movie at the movie theatre, I do not jump on my seat.)
 

Children with autism may not have perfect social skills, but with Social Stories, they can learn and develop these skills.

The beauty of these stories is that they can be as simple or as creative as you make them and can be modified to suit your child’s interests. Because of this, your child can better appreciate your ideas and make a significant impact on his/her social behavior.

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