What is a Social Story?
A social story is an individualized short story that describes a social situation and reinforces a desired skill, task, or behavior. Social stories use succinct sentences that are usually accompanied by a simple photograph or illustration. They are easily memorized and intended to be read aloud over and over again. When I was in graduate school to become a School Counselor, I was trained to use and write social stories for children with autism or learning disabilities, but I have found them to be useful for all children.
My youngest, Owen, is at that age where he is beginning to learn what it really means to be a friend. In honor of Valentine’s Day, a terrific time to teach your child about love and friendship, I put together a social story for him titled, Be a Friend. To make the book, I used a $2.00 photo album from Target, scrapbook stickers, and photographs of Owen.
Writing a Social Story.
Social stories are positive and typically follow a specified format: introduction, skill instruction, and a positive “I Can/Am” message. Below is the social story that I wrote for Owen to teach and reinforce friendship skills.
Be A Friend
Sometimes it can be hard to make a new friend. They might not know that I want to be their friend. By smiling and saying, “hello,” I can show that I am friendly.
Friends play together.
Friends can do a lot together. Friends can share silly moments!
Using a Social Story.
If read frequently, social stories are a valuable learning tool. In some cases, they may be starting blocks for further discussion. However, keep in mind the age of the child that you are reading to. Most times, social stories are simply another way of saying, “This is just how we do it,” and there is no need for discussion.
Social stories can be used when you want to introduce something new (like going on an airplane ride). They may be read throughout the day to reinforce a skill (like potty training). Another useful time to read a social story is when your child is calm after experiencing a strong emotion (like a tantrum).
I like to store social stories on a basket on the floor. Completely accessible, Colin and Owen can help themselves and read the pictures on their own.
Have you ever used social stories in your home? How did your child respond to them?