The Importance of "Social Stories" for Children on the Autism Spectrum

"Why the emphasis on 'social stories' for autistic children ...and do they actually work?"

A social story that directly addresses the issue in question (e.g., getting along with friends) and is age appropriate can be a wonderful tool for teaching social skills and helping the child to comprehend the hidden social rules that most of us take for granted. For example, common sense manners like:
  • Be patient when waiting in line or when waiting to get in elevators, subways, cabs, etc.  
  • Engage people with genuinely good eye contact. 
  • If you are meeting someone for the first time and just coming off a cold, mention it and don’t shake their hand.
  •  If you get to the door first, hold it open.
  • Wait for people to finish their sentences and listen to what they are saying instead of waiting for your turn to speak. 
  • When someone compliments you, take it.
  •   and so on...

 
 
Children with ASD level 1, or High-Functioning Autism, struggle with social skills. The long held notion that these kids lack an interest in social interactions is often inaccurate. 
 
They do indeed desire social involvement, but lack the necessary skills to interact effectively. This lack of “know-how” can also lead to feelings of social anxiety in many children on the spectrum, which often results in the avoidance of social situations, and subsequently, the development of social skill deficits.

Children with ASD need to be taught social skills, and they need to understand what may happen in social situations so that they are prepared, and do not become overwhelmed or withdraw from social settings. Social stories provide these children a manner of improving their social skills and understanding what is expected of them in social situations. 
 
Social stories also provide some perspective on the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors of others. And because social stories occur in a discrete teaching situation without the stresses of the actual social situation, they give the child a chance to practice the skills often -- and in a safe environment.
 
 

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