How Social Stories Can Help Kids With Autism

moving with kidsWe all have faced some level of difficulties transitioning, be it a new job or shifting to a new place. Imagine facing that regularly when you are constantly being thrust into new situations and having to deal with them. It might sound nightmarish to you, but this is the reality for kids with autism. Like us, they don’t have the luxury to learn through imitation or to pick up subtle social cues. To cope with different or new situations, they have to depend on learning tools like social stories. Social stories provide them a structure to follow and expect in new situations or events. Let’s read on to know more about how social stories can help kids with autism.

What Is A Social Story?

A person with autism often faces difficulties in dealing with social events or activities. A social story breaks down the event in smaller steps that helps them understand what is to be expected from that particular event or activity. It is a set of basic information with infographics or images, arranged systematically like a storyboard. This narrative or illustration helps kids with autism to grasp a certain situation.

How Did The Concept Of A Social Story Evolve?

The concept of the social story was brought to light by Carol Gray in 1990. This teacher from Michigan started experimenting with social stories to help autistic children to better cope with school activities. Over several decades she perfected the methods for social stories and received positive results. Today, social stories are regarded as one of the most effective ways to engage kids with autism with different social situations.

How Does A Social Story Work?

Social stories help kids with autism by preparing them for an event. They get to know what to expect and how to interact in an event without being thrust right into that event. Social stories focus on a particular real-life issue and narrate it with descriptive words or pictures in a sequential manner. Through repeated practice, kids pick up new social skills and develop a connection between those social stories and real-life events.

How To Create A Social Story?

The social story aims to remove any ambiguity or subtlety from a situation. To create a social story, you need to set a clear goal, gather information, and develop the text. These three requirements set by Carol Gray are discussed below.

Setting A Clear Goal

Singling out a goal for the social stories is the first step for creating a social story. The goal can be to make a child understand the importance of washing hands properly. To achieve this goal, the child needs to know about the bad effects of not washing hands properly.

Gathering Information

The next step is to gather the information that needs to be present in the story. Information about the issue or situation should answer some questions like where, when, who, how long, and why. Social stories are also tailored to their audience’s preferences. Information like The audience’s age, level of understanding, preferences, and attention span will help to make the stories more appealing to them.

Developing Text

Social stories should have a proper structure and appropriate language. You can use a descriptive sentence like –our hands are dirty, or coaching sentences like- we will try to wash our hands when they are dirty. With proper introduction, body, and conclusion, a social story can guide a child to the desired behavior.

Example Of A Social Story

An ideal social story should sequentially contain activities. For example, if you are trying to explain to your child the importance of wearing a mask in a pandemic situation, your story should follow these:

-Sometimes we need to wear masks to prevent germs from spreading.

-It might feel uncomfortable at first, but we will get used to wearing masks.

-We don’t need to wear masks at home.

-We will wear masks when we go outside.

-Masks will protect us from germs that can spread from people’s coughs or sneezes.

-When the virus goes away, we won’t need to wear masks.

-Wearing a mask can be different, but it is also important.

How Can You Use Social Stories?

Social stories should be used in a gentle approach. You should plan how often you need to review them for your kid. You can also set up a soothing environment and plan how to present them to your child. Using a poster or other props might also bolster the message that you are trying to convey through your stories.

Who Can Benefit From Social Stories?

Social stories can have an extremely positive effect on children with autism. Children or adults with learning difficulties can also benefit from it. All children can be made aware of interpersonal issues, a new perspective, and dealing with conflict through social stories. If used properly, social stories can be an effective learning tool for everyone.

Can You Make A Social Story For Your Child?

You can make social stories or even make it a fun activity by engaging your child. You can ask them to illustrate the concept or make some rhyme. This engagement will pique their interest in the issue to be addressed. Using software like Pogo Boards, Picto-Selector, and other different story apps will make your stories more effective.

When To Use Social Stories?

Social stories can be used in a variety of situations. When you are establishing rules or setting up boundaries, you can use social stories. Social stories are also very effective in dealing with new events, situations, or any type of transition. The current COVID 19 situation can be a perfect opportunity to make your child aware of personal hygiene through social stories.

To sum it up, social stories can be an effective learning tool for your child to help them navigate through life that might otherwise seem confusing and frightening. With the proper use of social stories, they can be as independent and confident as they want and learn something new along the way. Give it a try, and see your child flourish right before your eyes.

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