How to Write Social Stories

In 1990, author Carol Gray developed what she calls “Social Stories” – a way of teaching social and life skills to children on the autism spectrum, using a blend of visual and auditory tools. Gray’s Social Stories are designed to help children navigate others’ emotions, which in turn can foster positive relationships with peers, teachers, and family, as well as reduce the feeling of isolation.

Social Stories are carefully worded descriptive and coaching sentences that teach perspective and independence in common social situations. Each story follows Gray’s special formula to ensure success. We at Discover Hope want to make your life easier by breaking that formula down in easy-to-digest sizes!

Structuring Your Social Story
Social Stories have seven key components. Together, these components–or sentences, describe and coach any upcoming experience before it happens. Gray suggests using two descriptive sentences for every one directive sentence so as not to overwhelm your child with details.

Preparing the Story
Once you’ve picked the topic, begin to write a sentence for each component. When possible, involve your child in the creation of your Social Story. This allows them to take ownership of the story and in turn, may increase compliance. Try asking open-ended questions to get your child interested and invested in doing the right thing.

Seven Key Components of Social Stories:

  • Descriptive – the “who, what, where, and why” details are emphasized to allow your child to relate to the situation when it occurs.
  • Directive – clear instructions as to how your child should appropriately respond.
  • Perspective – this should describe one of your child’s possible responses to or feelings about a given event.
  • Affirmative – states a common value or opinion. Here, you can emphasize the important points by referring to a law or rule the learner should understand.
  • Cooperative – describes the actions of the people around your child based on their response to the social setting.
  • Control – technique to stop time and think about their next step.
  • Partial – this should encourage your child to make a guess about the next step.. This is usually represented by a blank in the story.

Here is an Example of a Social Story with the sentence components identified:

  • All people need personal space. (Descriptive)
  • If I move inside someone else’s bubble when I am talking to them it might make them feel uncomfortable. (Perspective)
  • I give my friends, family, and teachers personal space by standing 2 steps away when talking to them. (Directive)
  • Sometimes I go into Mom and Dad’s personal space to give them a hug or a kiss. (Descriptive)
  • That is okay because they are my family. (Affirmative)
  • I can hold onto my favorite stuffy while I decide. (Control)
  • When I give people personal space I know I am being a good friend. (Cooperative)

Adding Pictures
Visual aids are a great way to show exactly what your story is telling. Determine what pictures will help explain the situation. Placing the picture(s) above the text allows the image to be ingrained in your child’s mind as they process the story. Make sure the pictures are clear and represent the meaning of the story. These images are most effective when using photographs of your child, their peers, their classroom or your home.
If pictures of the real setting are not available, you can do an image search online and print pictures out.

Reading the Story
You’ve got your sentences and visual aids… it’s time to read! Set yourself up for success by showing excitement yourself and choosing a time when your child is in a “ready to learn” mood and eager to pay attention to the story. Read the story several times and, if possible, have your child read it aloud.

After Reading the Story
Once you have read the story several times, try role-playing to deepen your child’s understanding of their behavioral expectations. Don’t forget to promote good responses and behavior as you ask questions and role-play. Discuss personal experiences regarding the story to make connections to real-world situations. Asking questions that trigger memories gives them a chance to reflect and apply what they’ve learned to the story. Keep the Social Stories easily accessible so that your child can re-read the story as many times as they want!

This intervention does work for everyone but sometimes a little extra help is needed. If you have questions about how to make this intervention work for your family, or if you’ve tried it and it’s not working the way it should, please contact us to schedule a Free Behavioral Consultation. We have a team of behavior and parenting experts who will be happy to talk to you about the specific needs of your family and can give you strategies that will make it work for you! Call 510-894-4135 or click the “Request A Free Behavior Consultation” button at www.discover-hope.com, to schedule yours now!