What is a social story?
Social stories are a concept created by Carol Gray originally to improve the social skills of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The purpose of them is to redirect negative thinking patterns into a more positive direction. The concept has since been expanded for use with a variety of different populations, primarily within pediatrics. Social stories are a social learning tool used to prepare the child for a new or complex situation. They break down a task into smaller, more understandable components. Social stories are not meant to be given as a means to change behavior or as a punishment, but rather to provide predictability in an unknown situation. This cognitive behavioral strategy promotes self awareness and management in the way they allow for a child to understand how their thoughts can impact their emotions and behaviors. Social stories are short stories that can be read together or individually, and can even be acted out and discussed. They can be about various topics, such as playing at recess, riding the school bus, and going to doctor’s appointments.
What are the benefits of social stories?
Social stories provide predictability to an otherwise novel and anxiety provoking situation by analyzing the steps of a task and separating them into smaller, simpler steps. Those with ASD or individuals who have trouble navigating social situations may have problems generalizing their skills based on singular experiences, and can benefit from using a social story to provide needed support to establish confidence and competence with the task. Social stories promote a more flexible thought process and help to establish connection between thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
How does one create a social story?
Social stories can be found online about a variety of topics, but you can also create your own based on the particular child’s needs. First, the expectations and steps must be clearly defined in terms appropriate for the child. Each of these steps is usually accompanied by an illustration of the proper performance of the task. Once completed, the child will rehearse the story until they feel comfortable and confident with it. Carol Gray has a series of ten criteria a social story should have that can be seen on the webpage below. These stories also consist of four types of sentences:
- Descriptive: helps to set up the scene and adds context
- Perspective: describes the emotions/reactions of others in the situation
- Affirmative: a positive statement regarding the desired outcome, based on shared values
- Directive: gives explicit instruction as to how to behave in that situation
What do social stories look like?
Below is an example of the written portion of a social story written for a five year old boy who is working on better play habits with his brother:
When I get angry, sometimes I throw my toys at my brother.
This makes my brother very sad.
When I feel like I am angry, it is okay to walk away.
I can take five deep breaths.
I can ask for help when I am angry.
I can play with my toys in a quiet room.
My brother and mom are happy when I am calm.
Here is a sample social story of a young child preparing to welcome a new baby into the family:
I’m going to be a big brother/sister
My family and I are very happy.
My Mommy and Daddy took good care of me when I was a baby.
They played with me and fed me and changed my diaper.
I’m older now and Mommy and Daddy need my help with the baby!
Mommy and Daddy are going to spend time with the new baby and that’s okay.
That might make me feel sad sometimes.
It’s okay because Mommy and Daddy will still make time to play with me.
Being a big sibling is going to be so much fun!
This is a social story for a younger child about following the rules of the bus:
I ride the school bus to get to school in the morning
Being on the school bus is fun because I get to see all my friends.
The bus driver is happy when I follow the rules of the bus.
I sit with my feet on the floor facing forward.
I use my indoor voice.
I keep my hands to myself.
When my bus arrives at school, I will calmly walk out of the bus with my backpack.
I always follow the rules of the bus because it keeps me safe.
For more information about Carol Gray Social Stories, click here
For access to free social stories, click here