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How Social Stories Can Help Children Who Struggle

The concept of Social Stories has been around since the early 1990s, when it was first devised by consultant to children and adults with autism Carol Gray. At its most basic, a Social Story is a description of a particular event, social situation or other activity, designed to give children with autism or Asperger’s syndrome (ASD) a framework for how to deal with that situation when it arises in their real life.

Social Stories for Real Life Situations

Here’s an example of a Social Story, designed to help a child deal with a busy road outside their school:

On my way to school each day I must cross the big road.

The big road can be dangerous, because the cars on it move very fast.

To stay safe, I must always look both ways before crossing the big road.

I must also pay attention and put away my Nintendo.

Either Mum or Dad will be there to help me cross the big road.

Together we will safely cross the big road each day and go to school.

In the case of this example the purpose of the social story is largely functional – it is designed to help the child learn how to deal with a particular situation in a safe manner. Functional Social Stories can help a child to devise a bedtime routine, pick out clothes and dress themselves, prepare a snack, or complete any other daily task that they might otherwise find stressful.

Social Stories for Improved Social Interaction

Equally, though, social stories can be used to help children in social situations. You might consider devising a Social Story for a child about how to join in with games that other children are playing, or how to ask a question when class is busy. Here’s an example of a story designed to help a child with social interaction.

When I see someone I know at school, I can say "Hello" to them.

If it is the morning, I can say “Good Morning," and if it is the afternoon, I can say “Good Afternoon."

They will usually say the same thing back to me.

If I don’t want to say anything, it is okay just to nod or smile at them.

Saying hello to someone shows that I have noticed them, and that we are friends.

It is good to greet people like this because it makes them happy.

In each case the story has several elements – it includes a social cue or a detailed description of the situation it applies to, a suggested response to that situation, and information about why this response is positive or important. They also contain only the relevant information, with no extraneous or confusing detail, and are written in a supportive and easy-to-understand way.

Creating Social Stories

Carol Gray suggests several ways to use Social Stories: You can have your child write them out or illustrate them for themselves, or devise your own and read them with your child. It is suggested that your child should keep their collection of Social Stories together and return to them with some degree of frequency in order for them to be optimally effective.

By creating or reading relevant Social Stories with your child, you can provide them with a structure for situations that are otherwise difficult to navigate, and thus reduce the anxiety they feel about not knowing what to do. Additionally, they can be extremely helpful in allowing children with Asperger’s syndrome (ASD) to understand how other people might react to a given situation, and why.

Social stories can also be a starting point for developing further tailored materials for your child, including comics, play activities, and even role play scenarios. Stories in any format are a great way for your child to learn or improve social interaction.

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