In this blog on social stories for children with autism, we’ll look at the following questions and topics:
- What are social stories for children with autism?
- What evidence is there for social stories for autism?
- Examples of social stories
- How are social stories helpful for autism?
- What are the different parts of social stories for autism?
What Are Social Stories For Children With Autism?
Social stories are images and text, commonly in the form of comic strip conversations, that portray different scenarios and the appropriate reactions to these scenarios. As educators and caregivers, we can use social stories as a tool for autistic children to learn behaviors in different social situations.
Social stories also fall under the names of social scripts, social narratives, and story-based interventions. The main terms “Social Story” and “Social Stories” are trademarked and owned by Carol Gray, the founder of these communication strategies.
What Evidence Is There For Social Stories For Autism?
Several studies have shown a consistent positive outcome to using social stories for skill development and positive behavior in autism. In combination with other learning methods, social stories have been shown to improve social skills, problem behavior, and communication.
In one study with five subjects, social stories were found to be effective in addressing behavioral difficulties, teaching social skills, and promoting effective and appropriate communication in autistic individuals.
The Department of Education reported that social stories align with the criteria for evidence-based practice, supported by 17 individual case design studies. The report suggested that social stories can successfully address many areas, including social skills, communication, shared focus, behavior, school preparedness, play, adaptive skills, and academic achievements.
Examples Of Social Stories
Social stories help autistic children learn appropriate responses to situations to decrease problem behavior and work on adverse reactions. The number of social stories that can be portrayed is endless, but they all should include the following elements:
- One or more pages of text and images
- Large images showcasing the scenario
- Introduction of scenario
- Simple language
- Descriptions, coaching language, and “applause” for the reader
- Positive conclusion
Very Well Health provides a wonderful example format of a social story, which we’ve included below:
- [Title: Recess]
- Every day, I go to recess. [picture of the school playground or a generic stock photo of a playground]
- I go to recess after lunch.
- First I put on my jacket. Then I line up. [picture of child putting on jacket, picture of lining up]
- If the weather is nice, I go to the playground. [picture of a sunny day at a playground]
- I can choose to go on the swing, the slide, or the jungle gym. [pictures of children at each piece of equipment]
- Sometimes, I can go straight to my favorite equipment. [picture of a child going on a swing with no line]
- Sometimes I wait my turn. [picture of waiting in line at playground]
- I can choose to play with friends or play alone. [picture of a child playing with others; picture of a child happily playing alone]
- When the bell rings, I line up to go inside. [picture of children lining up]
- Recess is a great time for exercise and fun. [happy children at a school playground.]
How Are Social Stories Helpful For Autism?
Communication and social development problems are a common characteristic of autism. With social stories, autistic children can follow a visual scenario they have or will experience and see their options to respond to it with their actions and emotions. They promote the understanding of social scenarios and effective communication. This builds confidence and reduces anxiety, helping them feel more prepared for their next social interaction.
What Are The Different Parts Of Social Stories For Autism?
To write a social story that’s effective, it must meet the following elements:
- Descriptive, 5 Ws (who, what, where, when, why)
- Perspective, first or third-person perspective (“I am,” “She is”)
- Directive, guides the reader to desired responses and provides alternative choices.
- Affirmative, a sentence used to reassure the child of their decisions
Example social story provided by Nebraska Autism Spectrum Disorders Network told from a first-person perspective:
Sometimes, I get angry when schedules change. (Descriptive)
Teachers usually tell me before things change. (Descriptive)
Sometimes, teachers cannot tell me before things change. (Descriptive)
I will ask a teacher what to do if I am confused about the new schedule instead of crying or yelling. (Directive)
Then, I will try to understand and respect what the teacher says. (Directive)
Schedules can be changed, and it is okay to follow a new schedule. (Affirmative)
When the schedule is changed, I will follow the new schedule. (Directive)
Learn more about social stories through Carol Gray’s official site, which includes articles, newsletters, and information on webinars. Likewise, you can print a free social story here to try it with your child. Various stories are available, including “Trying New Foods” and “Sensory Overload.”