What is a “social story” and how is it used?


What is a “social story” and how is it used?


A social story describes a situation, skill, or concept in terms of relevant social cues, perspectives, and common responses in a specifically defined style and format. The goal of a social story is to share accurate social information in a reassuring manner that is easily understood by its audience. Half of all social stories developed should affirm something that an individual does well. 

Although the goal of a story should never be to change the youngster’s behavior, that youngster’s improved understanding of events and expectations may lead to more effective responses. Although social stories were first developed for use with kids with Aspergers (high-functioning autism), the approach has also been successful with adolescents and adults with other social and communication delays and differences – as well as individuals developing normally.

Sample Social Story—

Frequently, kids with Aspergers expect things to be the same way that they first saw them. Such was the case with Jimmy, who expected to find the overhead projector in the classroom bathroom--just as it had been the first time he went there! He refused to use the bathroom unless the projector was in there, causing problems when the teacher was in the middle of a lesson using the projector in the classroom. Further complicating the issue was his insistence that the projector was needed to keep the bathroom free of bugs. Jimmy’s mother wrote the following story for him:

My name is Jimmy. I am an intelligent second grader at Cottonwood Elementary School. Sometimes, I have to use the bathroom. This is okay.

Bathrooms need to have a toilet or urinal, and maybe sinks. Sometimes, when people need to find a place to keep something until they need it, they might place it in the bathroom. My teacher keeps her overhead projector in the bathroom when she is not using it to make more room in the classroom. It's okay to store an overhead projector in the bathroom, but usually most bathrooms do not have overhead projectors in them.

Sometimes, my teacher uses the overhead projector to teach the kids. If she were to bring all the kids into the bathroom where the overhead projector is, it would be too crowded! So my teacher brings the overhead projector into the classroom to use it.

It's okay to use our bathroom with the overhead projector in it. It's also very okay and intelligent to use our bathroom when my teacher is using the overhead projector with the class.

The custodians work very hard to keep our bathrooms clean. They use disinfectant to keep everything nice for the kids. If the custodians notice bugs, like spiders, they might use bug spray. Bug spray, and other things that custodians have, are used to keep bathrooms free of spiders and things. People never use overhead projectors to keep an area free of spiders; it just would not work. If I should ever see a bug in the bathroom, it's okay to tell an adult. The adult may know how to use a tissue or toilet paper to get rid of the bug, or we may choose to use another bathroom.

Our Aspergers kids may need similar social stories for a wide variety of situations. Simply changing the topic and adapting the vocabulary and situation to accommodate your youngster's concerns will help to produce a social story that helps him to deal with a necessary change from his expectations.

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