• Sharon Starkey

Using Social Stories to Help Autistic Children

Social stories are a good way to help an autistic child or adult prepare and manage a situation. Social stories are a learning tool that provides an exchange of information between parents, children and professionals in a way that is safe and non-threatening.


Social stories have many benefits. They can reinforce a specific appropriate behavior while also helping the person understand their behavior and the behavior of others. Stories can help teach self-help and daily living skills as well as social skills. They can help with changes and transitions in the daily schedule. Children can learn how to play with others, use their imagination and join in activities.


Social stories need to be customized to the individual to fit their needs and abilities. It is also important to make sure that the story has compelling pictures. Autistic people are often very visual and have difficulty processing auditory information. When writing a social story, you will need to include four types of sentences, descriptive, directive, perspective and affirmative.


How to make effective social stories

To make a social story helpful you need to:

1. Make sure it has a specific goal- what is the targeted behavior?

2. Make sure that everything in the story is factual and relevant. Do your homework. Research. Make sure it is relevant to the reader and is accurate to their situation.

3. Make sure that it answers who, what, where, when, how and why.

4. Use positive descriptive words and language.


Social stories are most often effective if written properly. They are generally written in a sentence format that include these 7 sentences:


Perspective sentences – General descriptions of the internal state of another person like his/her knowledge, thoughts, beliefs, feelings, motivations, and opinions, as well as his/her physical condition.

Example: “My brother likes to swim.”


Descriptive sentences – Answers the “why” questions in a social situation or event. They are factual and observable sentences that are free from assumptions and opinions and are used to identify the most important factors in a social situation.


Example: “Children go to school to study.”


Directive sentences – Presents a response or choice of actions to a given situation or event in a positive way.

Example: “I will brush my teeth after each meal.”


Control sentences – These are written by the child who just heard the story. These are used to identify or remember the personal strategies or solutions that the child will use to recall and use information.

Example: “I need to brush my teeth after each meal to keep them healthy.”


Affirmative sentences – These sentences are used to support or reinforce the meaning of statements and may stress a shared value or opinion. These can be employed along with directive, perspective, or descriptive sentences.

Example: “I will try to brush my teeth after each meal. It is very important to have healthy teeth.”


Cooperative sentences – These sentences help a child understand the important role played by other people in a certain situation or activity.

Example: “There are a lot of cars on the street. My dad and mom can assist me in crossing the street.”


Partial sentences – These are sentences used to encourage a child with autism to determine the ideal response to certain situations. These sentences are recommended when the child has a significant understanding of social situations and how they are handled.

Example: “My brother loves to play basketball.”


Effective traits of social stories

Here are some suggestions for parents and of kids with autism on how to effectively create Social Stories to deal with the specific needs of a child:


Determine/decide on the topic of the social story

When writing a story, parents should focus on one situation or topic at a time. This subject could be general, such as brushing one’s teeth, washing one’s hands, taking a bath, or a specific one like boarding an airplane and visiting the doctor for a medical check-up.


Base the features of the main character of the story on the features of the child

Try to create your story as a reflection of your autistic child and your family. You can achieve this by making the main character’s physical features, gender, interest, and skills similar to your child. You can also include the family members in the story to teach your child their importance in his/her life.


Associate stories with positive behaviors

Create your story in such a way that your child can associate it with positive behaviors, as well as use it to fight negative emotions, and to accept new situations and activities positively. Make sure that the atmosphere, attitude, and tone of the characters in the story are comforting, understanding, positive, and patient at all times.


Make different stories for every specific need

You should develop one story for each specific need of a child. Some examples of specific needs are how to communicate properly with peers and adults, how to develop friendships and relationships, and the proper things to do after waking up.


Properly accounting for your child’s mood when telling a social story

When you are planning to tell a social story to your autistic child, you should consider his/her mood, as well as the time and place of your story-telling activity. Make sure that the child is fresh, relaxed, energetic, and free from anxiety symptoms during the activity.


Tell or present a social story about a certain behavior before asking your child to display said behavior

You should tell a social story about a particular behavior before the time you expect him/her to exhibit such behavior in a social event or situation. This will help your child to remember the story and hopefully apply the ideal behavior as described in the story.


Ask your child to tell his/her own story

Once in a while, you should ask your child to tell you his/her own story. This is an effective way to learn the things your child experiences every day or the things your child wants to do. You should be very sensitive to the stories your child tells you so that you can immediately identify and resolve any problem that they are experiencing.

Reference: https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/social-stories-for-autistic-children/

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