Social stories are short stories, initially created by Carol Gray in 1991, that explain to children with autism spectrum disorder, at certain everyday social activities and events, and how to respond and appropriately understand these social situations. These stories help children with autism to stay safe and to improve their social communication skills.
Social stories contain meaningful and descriptive text written from a child’s perspective and a colorful illustration that supports the social situation demonstrated in the story. These autism social stories prepare children for upcoming changes that can take place in their lives, and help to understand various social interactions. The skills taught in this storytelling process will guide the child’s behavior to act appropriately and safely when the situation actually happens in real life.
Benefits of using social stories
Children with autism spectrum disorder have a difficult time understanding social cues and language. There are numerous skills and social aspects that you can explain and demonstrate with social stories.
- Understanding emotions
It is crucial to learn behavioral strategies to deal with and understand emotions. For example, a title of social story can be ‘When I am frustrated’, followed by the explanation and drawing of what the child can feel and what he can do to calm down, as well as what he shouldn’t do when being in that emotional state. It can also greatly help with certain obsessions and rituals that children with autism sometimes keep doing and feeling. Social stories also help with non-verbal languages such as facial expressions and body language.
- Self-care skills
Social stories help with discovering and improving self-care skills to deal with daily routine tasks. The stories can help children to remember that there are daily tasks that need to be done such as getting dressed, taking care of personal hygiene in the morning and evening, and saying ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ when required. For example, a story I can comb my hair’ teaches a child how and when to perform that task.
- Accepting changes
Social stories demonstrate special coping strategies that will help get over unexpected changes and events. Autistic children have a hard time even with small changes in their routines such as the absence of a teacher, unexpected rain, change in seating plan, or a new piece of furniture at home. Social stories explain to children that there is nothing to be afraid of and how to deal with these new events.
- Social skills in specific settings
Children will learn about social behavior skills that are expected in specific settings. Social stories teach children how to react and act in some basic settings such as a playground, supermarkets, shopping malls, doctor’s offices, and others. The stories will help children feel less anxious and to understand the norms of appropriate behavior in these settings.
- Providing feedback and encouragement
Social stories improve social skills that show how to provide positive feedback to others. Social stories teach children when and how to use encouraging and kind words and actions. They explain the importance of good deeds, achievements and self-esteem and the reactions that are expected from a person such as ‘congratulation’, ‘well done’, ‘thank you’, or simply encouraging hugs.
Social stories usually are read with parents, professionals, and teachers, but can also be used as part of the therapy. They considerably help to explain difficult things in the simplest way possible, by providing examples of everyday situations and activities. Children will feel more relaxed and prepared when they have a guide and illustrated demonstration of what is expected from them in social settings.