Social Stories were created by Carol Gray in 1991. They are used as a social learning tool to support children and young people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or learning disabilities to understand particular situations, events or activities.
Social Stories describe:
• what people do,
• why they do it
• and what the common responses are
How Can Social Stories Help?
Social Stories present information in a literal, ‘black and white’ way, to support a person’s understanding of a confusing situation or activity. The presentation and content can be adapted to meet different people’s needs (e.g. level of language used, use of visuals to support meaning, length of the social story).
Social Stories can be used:
- To support someone to cope with changes to his/ her daily routine (e.g. change in teaching staff, school holidays, Christmas)
- To help a person to develop their social communication skills (e.g. taking turns in a conversation, asking for help)
- To Develop self-care skills (e.g. how to wash his/her hands, having a shower)
- As a behavioural strategy (e.g. what to do when angry, how to manage anxiety)
How Do You Write a Social Story?
In order to write a Social Story Carol Gray says that you need to:
- Picture the goal
- Gather information
- Tailor the text
Picture the Goal
Consider what you want the social story’s purpose to be (e.g. the goal may be to teach a young person why they need to bathe). You then need to think about what the child/ young person needs to understand in order to achieve this goal. For example they need to understand why washing is important, i.e. it stops you from smelling.
Next you need to gather information about the situation that you are describing in your social story:
- Where does the situation occur?
- Who is it with?
- How does it begin and end?
- How long does it last?
- What actually happens in the situation and why?
You should then collect information about the child/ young person including their interests, age, level of language and attention span.
Stories should be written using clear language, to avoid causing distress or anxiety. The language used should also be patient and supportive. Age-appropriate photographs, pictures, symbols or drawings should also be used alongside the text, where appropriate, to aid understanding.
Tailor the Text
A Social Story needs to include a:
and should answer six key questions: where, when, who, what, how and why?.
The text should be made up of descriptive (concrete) sentences (e.g. My birthday is on the 20th of April, Sometimes my teacher is sick and cannot come into school), and may also contain coaching sentences to gently guide behaviour (e.g. It is ok to ask an adult for help when I don’t understand, I will try to wait for my turn when I am playing games with my friends).
Sample Social Stories
Have you ever made any social stories before and have they helped? I would love to hear all about your experience with social stories in the comments below.
- Gray CA. The New Social Story Book. Arlington: Future Horizons Inc.; 2015.