Social Stories represent one of the most widely accepted tools for working with individuals on the Autism Spectrum. They are written into countless Autism supplements, behavioral strategies checklists, and therapeutic recommendations. Social Stories are also some of my very favorite things to use in the classroom and in my life. It is a great hope of mine that teachers, parents, therapists, and individuals on the spectrum alike feel confident finding, using, and writing social stories in whatever setting they may be in, so here a few of my tips for success utilizing social stories.
Know when to use a Social Story
If you were to ask me, I would probably tell you that any time is a good time for a social story. I find social stories so useful when you need to prime a situation that is going to be frustrating or upsetting. If you have the ability to work ahead and print out a great social story for an upcoming event, it can be a lifesaver. Social Stories can also work in a reactionary way. If you find yourself and your student/child in a situation that is uncomfortable that may be unexpected, you can address the discomfort with a social story and alleviate some of the anxiety. This could be the canceling of an event that is last minute and completely out of your control. You can also utilize social stories if you find a situation popping up over and over again and it needs to be addressed in a way that you can keep referring back to. In my own home, this would look like writing a social story for appropriate bathroom behavior for my younger son.
Use what’s already out there if possible
If you are in a situation that is typical and many teachers or parents have found themselves in, there is probably a social story out there for it. There are so many that can be found with a simple Google search; there is no need to reinvent the wheel and pour over clip art to write your own. The Autism Helper TPT site has TONS of great ones that are well laid out and easy to understand. They are especially helpful for teachers as they encounter the usual unusual things that can occur in a school day like a fire drill or assembly that messes with our wonderful schedules.
Feel confident in writing your own
One of the most liberating moments that I’ve had as a teacher is the moment that I felt like I was capable of writing my own social stories to address somewhat individualized situations that have come up at school or in my own life. These social stories have been especially unique, an example being: Why We Don’t Touch the Pins at the Bowling Alley. When a TPT search and a google search doesn’t yield a social story, you can turn to your own computer, pen and paper, or ipad. I like to use Symbolstix picture representations or real pictures if possible. Because I am EXTRA, I like to print and laminate and bind my social stories and frequently make a copy for the student to have at home for consistency. It has taken many years, but I feel like I am very fast and efficient at making these stories. They get a lot of use because I only make these “fancy” ones when it is a recurring situation that needs a “go to” story. When I am putting time into these social stories, I like to add in pictures of the student and some characters or themes that they like to cheer them up because we are frequently talking about something that I upsetting. Pictello is also a great app for creating social stories on a device that can then be shared with other devices. These are a bit quicker and easier, but still look really nice.
Social Stories can be fast and easy
As much as I love a fancy laminated and bound social story, they are not necessary. One of my favorite examples of this was a social story that one of my teacher assistants wrote for my students about my being pregnant and how they needed to be careful around me. I had 100% non-verbal, non-reader students at the time and she hand drew simple representations that helped them to understand what they needed to do. It was genius and so simple.
I also love a quick social story written out on a white board if you have readers, which I am lucky enough to have in my current setting. This can be for a quick reinforcer of something that has already been said a time or two. I love pointing to white board instead of repeating myself.
When I work with parents of students on the spectrum, I do my best to empower them to write social stories for situations that come up in the home. I was sent an awesome social story just this week from an amazing parent. There were unavoidable cancellations in the student’s schedule, so her mom quickly typed out a social story letting her down and giving enjoyable alternative choices, putting control back in the hands of the student. I was able to reread this same social story at school to have consistency across environments. A potential meltdown was avoided because of a quickly written social story.
I try to highlight the fact that when you write a social story for your student/child, it often takes away from you being the “bad guy” or having to be the bearer of bad news. If there is frustration about the topic of the social story, that can be removed from the teacher/parent and directed at the social story.
Does anyone else have the love affair with Social Stories that I obviously do? Let me know what the best Social Story you have written is or a new social story that you are about to write!