Mary Spickelmier, LSCSW

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SOCIAL STORIES

WHAT ARE SOCIAL STORIES?

Social expectations or the proper way to respond when interacting with others are typically learned by example. People with communication difficulties and/or behavior problems sometimes need more explicit instructions. Social stories are meant to help children understand social situations, expectations, social cues, new activities, and/or social rules. As the name implies, they are brief descriptive stories that provide accurate information regarding a social situation. Knowing what to expect can help children with challenging behavior act appropriately in a social setting. Parents, teachers, and caregivers can use these simple stories as a tool to prepare the child for a new situation, to address problem behavior, or even to teach new skills in conjunction with reinforcing responses.

HOW TO WRITE A SOCIAL STORY

Begin by observing the child in the situation you are addressing. Try to take on the

child’s perspective and include aspects of his or her feelings or views in the story. Also, include usual occurrences in the social situation and the perspective of others along with considering possible variations.

There are three types of sentences used in writing social stories


  • Descriptive sentences: objectively define anticipated events where a situation, who is involved, what they are doing, and why. (e.g., When people are inside,

    they walk.)

  • Perspective sentences: describe the internal status of the person or persons

    involved, their thoughts, feelings, or moods. (e.g., Running inside could hurt me or

    other people.)

  • Directive sentences: are individualized statements of desired responses stated in a

    positive manner. They may begin “I can try...” or “I will work on...” Try to avoid

sentences starting with “do not” or definitive statements. (e.g., I will try to walk in

inside.)


A social story should have 3 to 5 descriptive and perspective sentences for each directive sentence. Avoid using too many directive sentences. They will be lost without adequate contextualization.  Write in first person and on the child’s developmental skill level. Also remember to use pictures that fit within the child’s developmental skill level to supplement text.

SOCIAL STORIES YOU CAN DOWNLOAD AND USE

Video of Tucker Turtle Book - helps children manage anger

Download Free PDF of Book

This book helps children learn to be good problem solvers

  Download Free PDF of Book