Social expectations or the proper way to respond when interacting with others are typically learned by example. People with communication difficulties and/or behavior problems sometimes need more explicit instructions. Social stories are meant to help children understand social situations, expectations, social cues, new activities, and/or social rules. As the name implies, they are brief descriptive stories that provide accurate information regarding a social situation. Knowing what to expect can help children with challenging behavior act appropriately in a social setting. Parents, teachers, and caregivers can use these simple stories as a tool to prepare the child for a new situation, to address problem behavior, or even to teach new skills in conjunction with reinforcing responses. The following is an example of a social story explaining how to ask a friend to play.
- Descriptive sentences: objectively define anticipated events where a situation occurs, who is involved, what they are doing, and why. (e.g., When people are inside, they walk.)
- Perspective sentences: describe the internal status of the person or persons involved, their thoughts, feelings, or moods. (e.g., Running inside could hurt me or other people.)
- Directive sentences: are individualized statements of desired responses stated in a positive manner. They may begin “I can try…” or “I will work on…” Try to avoid sentences starting with “do not” or definitive statements. (e.g., I will try to walk in inside.)
How To Write A Social Story
Begin by observing the child in the situation you are addressing. Try to take on the child’s perspective and include aspects of his or her feelings or views in the story. Also, include usual occurrences in the social situation and the perspective of others along with considering possible variations.
A social story should have 3 to 5 descriptive and perspective sentences for each directive sentence. Avoid using too many directive sentences. They will be lost without adequate contextualization.
Write in first person and on the child’s developmental skill level. Also remember to use pictures that fit within the child’s developmental skill level to supplement text.
Broek, E., Cain, S.L., Dutkiewicz, M., Fleck, L., Grey, B., Grey, C., et al. (1994). The Original Social Story Book. Arlington, TX: Future Education. www.thegraycenter.org
Fan Favorite Resources:
The New Social Story Book by Carol Gray
Carol Gray offers a full 100 of her famous Social Stories, explaining what to do in everyday situations that spectrum children may find confusing. These simple, illustrated stories help them understand particular situations, what a child might do in that situation, and what the outcome might be. Sample stories include, “Can I hold the baby?”; “How to give a hug”; and “What am I supposed to do at recess?” Carol details how to write a Social Story, so you can tailor-make stories to fit your child’s needs. Included are directions for reviewing a Social Story with others, which encourages generalization.
This is my favorite book about social stories. It comes with a CD containing each Social Story in ready-to-print PDFs AND easy-to-edit Word files! With the CD, you can customize story content and insert images relevant to your child or student’s individual experiences.
Board Maker Software by Major-Johnson
Boardmaker® lets you create valuable printed materials, like communication boards, sequences and schedules that are perfect for all of your students. Easy-to-use features let you design your own materials, with symbols supported in 44 languages, and choose the topics, symbols, labels, colors, borders, languages and more – all designed to help your students reach classroom goals. http://www.mayer-johnson.com/boardmaker-v-6
Social Stories by Laura Scott
You can also click HERE for a packet of social stories by Laura Scott that includes: Sitting in My Own Space, Morning/Afternoon Routine, Starting My Work, Telling A Story to Others, In the Lunchroom, Writing, My Bus Routine, Bathroom Routine, Hands to Myself, Fire Drill, Break Area, Asking a Friend to Play
*If you like these social stories and are interested in customizing your own, contact Laura Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also find these social stories on the FREE RESOURCE page on our website along with other helpful freebies.
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