Today I want to discuss Social Stories. A discussion came up recently and I realized we still use a form of social stories with Em but not as often as we once had too. For those who don’t know, social stories take a situation a child (or person) is dealing with and work through the situation in the manner that is appropriate.
“Social stories were developed in order to support individuals with autism to better cope with social situations.” – Ali and Frederickson (2006, p. 355)
We’ve used them to curb negative behavior, expected behavior/routines (example showering/cleaning/homework), and to prepare her for changes in her routine. They are scripted for each child’s situation.
There are social stories out there that will work for several children. Then there are social stories that we tailor make to fit a specific need of our specific children. If they are hitting or spitting, we can write a social story for that. If they are struggling to communicate with us when they are angry, we can write social stories to help the figure out how to calm down and relax.
Social stories often incorporate pictures for each statement. Often our children think and see things in pictures. By using pictures we are reinforcing each statement. In addition, because they struggle to process too much information all at once, there is a need to keep it simple.
Then we present the social stories to them in a manner that they can comprehend. It may not help the very first time that they read a social story. We use that social story to reinforce positive behavior and redirect negative ones. I’ve had to use the same social story for more times than I remember to help Emelie understand that xyz isn’t appropriate and abc is what is expected of her. Then we can put it aside. We may need to revisit it, but it’s often now part of her scripting and eventually fits into her personal routine/style.
When we are using social stories to prepare for a change in schedules or routines, we often try to prepare them within a safe period of time. Each child is different. For Em it’s a week. We go over it once the week before, skip a day, remind her, skip a day and then the last three days go over it and the morning or evening of just before the change we simply say remember what we’ve talked about.
When we first present a new social story with Emelie, we will go over it a few times. We’ll ask her questions. We will try to make sure she understands it. This is happening in a less hostile environment so we can hold those discussions that we may have when she is too upset to comprehend the conversation. It gives them opportunities to have a calm discussion.
We often ask them questions while reading them. It staves off discussions later on if we can. When she is upset, it’s too much. So then we simply can ask if she remember the social story about xyz. Many times after we have read it and discussed it a couple of times, the answer is yes and then we will ask what the social story says. Then she will recite it back to us.
It often calms her down. She redirects herself and the social skills slowly reemerge. If she struggles with recall, we’ll give her the social story again and it has the same effect. However, we also know that there is the possibility she needs down time first before she can read it. If that is the case, we address it when we can.
Social stories have helped Emelie learn how to respond and interact in difficult for her circumstances, situations or routine changes. I know many families that have benefitted from them. Autism or not, it’s a great tool to use with children.
I’ve included the link to a 3 page social story my friend from a Legion for Liam allowed me to use in this blog for an example. It’s tailored for her son, but we used one VERY similar for Em. Thanks to her, I remembered how important social stories were (and still can be) in our life. How it’s actually very important in a lot of families lives. I also want to thank her for graciously allowing me to use it here.
One last thing. Social stories aren’t just used at home. They are used everywhere. School. Home. Doctor’s office. Therapy settings. And there is a reason. We all see how it benefits our children and helps them understand the world around them and how it “works”.
Link to social story: Being Told No Social Story