The aim of Social Stories is to develop social understanding by helping children to 'read' and understand social situations. Social stories provide information about social situations that the child may find confusing or difficult to understand. The situation is described simply, with a focus on just a few key points. The goal of the story is to explain confusing situations, make the child feel more comfortable and confident, and suggest some appropriate responses to the situations. It is important when introducing a Social Story that is introduced in a relaxed, positive environment where the student can "learn" the social situation before experiencing it: they are not designed to process situations after the child has made poor choices of behaviour. Situations from which the child withdraws, or attempts to escape from may be appropriate targets for a social story.
There are two main sort of social stories:
These are always stated in positive terms and are individualized statements of desired responses. Directive sentences often follow descriptive sentences, sharing information about what is expected as a response to a given cue or situation. Directive sentences often begin with "I can try..." "I will try..." or "I will work on...." Example of a directive sentence: "I will work on staying calm when the fire alarm rings."
Care should be taken not to have too many directive and/or control sentences turn a social story into an "anti-social story" of demands and commands.
If the child can read, the parent can introduce the story by reading it twice. The person then reads it once a day independently. When the child cannot read, the parent can read the story on a videotape or audio tape with cues for the person to turn the page while reading. These cues could be a bell or verbal statement when it is time to turn the page.
The person listens and 'reads' along with the story once a day. When the child starts to develop the skills displayed in the social story, the story can be faded. This can be done by reducing the number of times the story is read a week and only reviewing the story once a month or as necessary. Another way of fading is to rewrite the story, gradually removing directive sentences from the story.
Work books: Sometimes making a workbook that students can add their own ideas is useful, particularly for SSO's and LAP helpers. For example "My new year book....." could include pages such as "What will be the same next year.....", "What will be different.......". "When I am unsure, I will be able to ask.........."
Symbols - The text of the story can be augmented with pictures representing various words or ideas. Boardmaker symbols are good choices for this use. For beginning readers, PECS symbols or simple blackline drawings can be substitutes for written words not yet mastered. Or a single, large symbol can represent a complete idea on a particular page.
Social Stories on tape - A reading of a particular story can be recorded on audio tape with a tone or verbal cue for the child to turn the page.
Video - A film could be made of the student and peers acting out scenes from the story. The text of the story should be edited in before the applicable scene, and the written story presented along with the video when it is presented to the child.
Play acting - The child and an adult can act out scenes from the stories with small figures, dolls houses, small theatres made of show boxes, etc. This too, can add interest and increase understanding of the concepts for children who are not strong readers.
Examples of social stories
It's important to look at people and stop what I'm doing when they have something to tell me.
Sometimes grown-ups tell me very important things that I need to know.
If I don't look & listen I might miss something important and make the grown-ups angry.
I know it's wrong to keep doing what I'm doing when grown-ups want me to listen.
I will listen to grown-ups when they talk to me.
|Tuning into people
I only think about what people are saying or doing.
When I remember to do this, I make friends and I know what's going on.
If I think about other things I can get distracted, I might even get stuck.
People will think I'm weird and they won't want to play with me.
I will always think about what people are saying and doing.
I can't interrupt when others are having a conversation or are busy with something.
It's not polite
If it's extremely important, I can tap the person on the shoulder and say excuse me, otherwise I must be patient and wait until they're finished.
Interrupting makes people angry because you stop them from talking and they might forget what they were talking about. Everyone deserves to talk without being interrupted.
Grown-ups like polite children
They're especially proud of children who do not interrupt.
Sometimes I might think it's important and the grown-up will tell me it's not. If that happens, I need to wait patiently.
When I talk to people I need to give them their space and stay away from their faces.
When people come too close it makes other people uncomfortable.
Everybody needs space.
When I make people uncomfortable, they want to get away from me.
They might not want to ever talk to me again.
When I give people enough space, I get to play with and talk to people, I make friends and have fun.
Sometimes grown-ups send me to a timeout when I don't listen.
What are you supposed to do in a timeout?
What do grown-ups think if you don't listen? A: They think I don't know how to listen.
I can control myself so I don't get timeouts
I can listen to grown-ups.
|No answer from others
Sometimes people don't answer when you talk to them
Maybe they didn't hear you.
Maybe they weren't paying attention.
Maybe they were busy.
Maybe they just didn't want to talk to you.
It's not my job to make people answer me.
I can just forget about it, maybe they'll talk to me later.
In circle time I listen to the teacher.
If I talk to the other kids, the teacher will be upset because I'm not paying attention to her.
The other kids might think I'm a bad boy who doesn't listen to rules.
When I listen to the teacher, I learn.
Learning is fun; I can remember to listen to the teacher.
|Leaving an activity
I talk to the kids that I'm playing with.
It's important not to talk to kids playing with other kids
If I talk to kids playing other games, my friends will be sad, they'll think I'm ignoring them.
They might not want to play with me next time.
If I only talk to my friends we have fun together
Next time they'll play with me again.
Whenever I want to talk to someone, I need to walk over and speak to them.
That's the polite thing to do.
When people call out, they disrupt the whole room; everyone gets distracted.
If I call out, people might think I don't understand the way to do things.
I'll be able to walk over to people when I want to talk to them.
|Leaving objects when an adult calls me
When a grown-up calls me I need to immediately stop what I'm doing and go to them.
They might have something to tell me that I need to know right away.
If I don't go right away I won't hear what I need to know.
Grown-ups don't like children who don't listen.
I will listen to grown-ups.
|When I feel I must talk
Sometimes I want to say things very badly; it feels like I have to say it right that second.
It's important to wait until the other person is finished talking.
Even though it feels important, it can wait.
They will listen to me better if I wait patiently.
When I interrupt, it just angers people.
People wonder, "What's wrong with him?", "why can't he wait?"
If I can wait, I can tell them later.
Jenni Pearce, Psychologist (2009)
Child & Educational Psychology
6 Edward Street, NORWOOD 5067 South Australia, Australia.
Telephone: 0407 726 332
Fax: (08) 8362 0332