As parents, and not just parents of those on the autism spectrum, we have needed to step in and coach our children through difficult situations, prepare them for challenging circumstances, and taught them skills to navigate social situations.
One tool that has become increasingly popular to use since its invention in 1990 is social stories. They are especially popular within special education and autism spectrum disorder communities.
Though they are often suggested by educators, autism resources, and blogs like these, social stories can seem intimidating and unfamiliar to venture into. For that reason, we have taken some frequently asked questions so you can help your child successfully face their next roadblock.
What are Social Stories?
Social stories are written step-by-step narratives that explain specific situations and how to overcome the challenges they present. They are written for that particular child in that child’s perspective. They are intended to teach or review a social norm or make clear expectations rather than directly changing the behavior of the child.
They help children build skills such as self-awareness and emotional regulation while tackling a specified goal. Their self-confidence, when facing the challenge, will improve as they are more prepared and are equipped with more tools.
When Should I Use Social Stories?
Social stories are typically used to go over a skill or confront an upcoming challenge. These may include, but are not limited to:
- taking care of oneself.
- sharing or taking turns.
- understanding emotions in others.
- coping with transitions or changes in routine.
- Initiate friendships.
- preparing for a vacation.
All of these are difficult concepts for children to grasp in the abstract, so social stories may help as they deliver the information in a more concrete way.
They also serve as a valuable tool when the child has anxiety over a specific event or circumstance. The social story explains it in a more structured way and the child learns what to expect, reducing the anxiety.
How Do I Write a Social Story?
Writing your first social story for your child may seem overwhelming. Here is a step-by-step process you can follow as you try it out:
- Determine the goal of the story. Why are you writing it? What is your child on the autism spectrum currently struggling with?
- Gather all of the information necessary to write it. Make sure the information is accurate and age-appropriate.
- Put it into a story framework: a beginning, a middle, and an end. It should answer who, what, when, where, how, and why.
- Use specific sentence types. The two sentences in social stories are descriptive and directive. Descriptive sentences describe the situation, how other “characters” in the story are feeling, and explain what is happening in the story. Directive sentences coach the child’s behavior or give them suggestions about what actions to take in the particular scenario.
- If your child is younger, pictures will help make the story more clear to them.
How Do I Present the Social Story to My Child?
Once you have completed your social story, determine a time during which your child is more relaxed. You can start it as a bedtime story, discuss it over a meal, or share it when there is a lull in the day. Observe your child’s reactions to see how effective it is.
Of course, the acquisition of every skill is a journey, so deciding its effectiveness will take time. As the days go on, try reading it at different times of day as you prepare for the event or work on the skill. Over time, you will notice your child gradually applying the lesson of the story.
As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, you are well aware of the struggles your child faces on a daily basis, the parts of life that increase their anxiety, and the skills that seem just out of reach. The next time one of those things just can’t get off your mind, try using it to write your first social story. And let us know how it turns out!
If you are looking for more information on social stories, or ways to reinforce skills your child is focusing on in therapy, reach out on our website, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at 888-260-1609.
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