Social Stories: Why We Use Them and How To Create Them

Understanding your child with autism and helping them navigate social situations can be a deeply rewarding yet challenging journey. For many parents we speak to, they often find it easiest to simply stay in the house rather than bring their child into situations where they might be uncomfortable. However, it is essential for both parents and children with autism to be equipped with tools to navigate the world outside the home.

Social stories are a thoughtful and effective tool in this journey, offering a way to gently guide your child through the complexities and anxieties stemming from social interactions. As you strive to make the world more accessible and less intimidating for your child, social stories can be a valuable ally. They provide a structured approach to explaining social norms and behaviors, making it easier for your child to understand and engage with, reducing both your child’s and your own anxiety about social situations.

The Purpose of Social Stories

Social stories are a specialized tool designed specifically to assist children with autism in understanding and responding to social cues in a more appropriate manner. These stories carefully delineate social norms, expectations, and the rationale behind various social behaviors, thereby simplifying the process of interaction and engagement with others for these children. 

They encompass a broad range of scenarios, from routine daily interactions like waiting in the lunch line at school, to more specific events like an upcoming dentist appointment. This makes them an invaluable resource in helping children with autism navigate the social world more effectively.

Steps to Create a Social Story

Creating a social story is a detailed process that requires careful thought and understanding of your child’s needs. These steps are designed to craft a story that resonates with your child and addresses their specific challenges in social situations:

  • Identify the Goal: Start by pinpointing the specific social situation or challenge the child is facing.
  • Write a Title, Body, and Conclusion: Craft a title that encapsulates the story’s focus. Then, write the story using simple, clear language tailored to the child’s comprehension level.
  • Incorporate Various Sentence Types: Include descriptive, perspective, and directive sentences to offer a well-rounded view of the situation.
  • Use Visuals: Enhance the story’s effectiveness with visuals or real-life pictures, which can aid in understanding and reduce anxiety.
  • Consider the Child’s Attention Span and Abilities: Tailor the story’s length and complexity to suit the child’s attention span and cognitive abilities.
  • Address Expected Emotions and Reactions: Include what emotions might be expected in the given situation to reassure the child, along with emotional regulation techniques with which they are familiar.
  • Consider Sensory Input: Factor in any sensory input that might be relevant to the story, helping the child prepare for them. 
  • Break Down Into Steps: Present the information in easy-to-follow steps, making it manageable and clear for the child.

After creating your social story, it’s important to review it to ensure it communicates the intended message. Remember, the goal is to make social situations more understandable and less daunting for your child, paving the way for more successful interactions.

How to Use a Social Story with Your Child

Using a social story with your child involves more than just reading the story to them. It’s about engaging with them over the content, discussing it if possible, and relating it to real-life situations they might encounter. Plan to regularly revisit the story and use it as a reference in upcoming relevant situations.

Social stories are a critical resource for parents and educators in helping children with autism navigate social complexities. By demystifying social norms and expectations, they significantly reduce anxiety and make day-to-day interactions more manageable. 

If you need assistance in creating effective social stories to your child’s needs, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional guidance and support.