How can we use social stories with children?
It is hypothesized that children under the autism spectrum experience difficulties understanding other people’s perspectives and understanding things as a whole. Stemming out of these challenges, “Social Stories” started to be used to explain to children in detail the parts of an activity/ situation while explicitly demonstrating the thoughts and feelings of others in the story.
In fact, this proved to be a useful tool not only for all children with developmental challenges but also for typically developing children. Explaining complex activities such as going to the dentist or traveling by plane can be simplified to any child by illustrating it in visuals or written simple stories. This way, the child is better prepared, knows what to expect, and will be less overwhelmed once partaking in the activity.
How can I create a Social Story?
If you search online, you will find many websites dedicated to creating “Social Stories” where you can create, download the story, and personalize the names in it. However, with today’s ease of printing photos, making your own story of photographs that depict the context of your environment is very effective.
Of course, you can also be creative and write the sentences and draw your own simple illustrations. Whichever way you decide to go about it, take note of the following:
- Choose one activity or behavior to focus on one story.
- Make sure you present the steps in their right order.
- State in simple terms facts about the situation that:
- Describe who is involved, why and where the events are taking place.
- Present ideas on how your child should perform or respond to the situation.
- Express what emotions your child may be experiencing - as relevant to the situation. (happy, sad, annoyed, scared…etc.).
- Express how others around the child may be affected.
How do I make use of the Social Story?
- Introduce one “Social Story” at a time.
- Choose a relaxed time where your child will enjoy reading it with you.
- You can read it more than once per day and before the planned activity (like going to the dentist).
- Give your child the chance to participate in reading by having him describe or discuss parts or the whole story or even summarizing it at the end.
So next time you feel the need to teach your child something new (like using the toilet, brushing teeth, crossing the road), or explain changes in his/her routine (like preparing for changing houses or schools), or to explain a difficult situation to him (what to do when approached by strangers or when bullied by a friend), try to use a “Social Story” that you personalize for your child. Remember, children like to see themselves or hear their names in the story!