By Christine Hemelians, MS, OTR/L
Social Stories are used as a learning tool to explain and illustrate certain social situations and problems and how people deal with them. Carol Gray, developed the concept of Social Stories, to help individuals with Autism navigate certain social situations. They help describe what might be expected during a specific social event or activity, the emotions associated with said event, how others might respond, and appropriate behavior expectations. Social Stories are evidence-based practices used to assist individuals diagnosed with social communication disorders or other disabilities, as well as typically developing children. According to Gray’s philosophy effective Social Stories “abandon all assumptions, regard both typical and autism perspective as ‘equally valid,’ and recognize the ‘social impairment in autism’ as shared” (Carol Gray- Social Stories, 2016).
Social Stories are effective and essential because they have the ability to significantly improve how children and adolescents with autism relate to others. They help them learn what to do (and what not to do) when facing unfamiliar situations. Social Stories have a specific goal that targets a desired behavior, is well-researched and accurate, and is descriptive by using positive language. A story is generally written in a sentence format and must answer the where, when, who, what, how, and while using simple, encouraging words. Stories can be personalized to match the needs of the child/ adolescent. Using a photo of the child is a great way to individualize each story.
Social Stories are typically used prior to the target social situation, and should be used in an informative way to allow kids to learn and understand key social skills and behaviors. After reading the story, review the key concepts and skills addressed in the story so that the child understands. You can participate in role play by giving the child an opportunity to practice the target skill or behavior.
Benefits of Social Stories
- Helps with self-regulation and reduces anxiety
- Teaches social norms
- Improves social stories
- Teaches kids about self-care and social skills
- Allows kids with special needs to understand their behavior, as well as behavior of others
- Addresses compassion and empathy
- Teaches kids on the spectrum to join in activities, use their imagination, and play with others
- Assists kids with autism in understanding emotions such as: anger, sadness, and happiness and how to address them
Below are generalized examples of Social Stories and the certain topics that can be addressed. (Social Stories | ECLKC, 2023)