Social Stories

Guest Post by Nicole Grant

The benefits of reading to children are well documented – improved literacy skills, reinforcement of routine, and bonding time with Mum or Dad. Did you know that reading to your child can also help to reduce anxiety levels, cope with change, and interact better with other kids?

Social stories are stories written specifically for your child to help them through a challenging situation or to correct undesirable behaviours.

Here’s an example:

Five-year-old Bill is scared of the neighbour’s dog. Every time he and his mum walk past the neighbour’s front fence, the dog barks loudly and gives Bill a huge fright. Every time this happens, he cries, and he now gets anxious whenever his mum suggests they go for a walk to the corner shop, which takes them past the neighbour’s house and the big, scary dog.

Bill’s mum could write a Social Story to help better prepare Bill for this situation. She would read the story before they take their walk.

Bill and Mum need to walk to the shops to buy some milk.

They grab their shoes and hats, and walk out the door.

Bill holds Mum’s hand because he knows she will keep him safe.

On the way to the shops, Bill sometimes sees Mr Brown’s cat sunning himself on the driveway.

Mrs White’s budgie is usually on the verandah and George’s dog next door waits by the fence.

George’s dog is big, but can’t hurt anyone because the gate is shut.

George’s dog barks loudly every time he sees Bill because he is excited. This is how George’s dog says Hello.

Bill keeps hold of Mum’s hand and they walk safely together to the shops.

Bill enjoys walking with Mum.

 

The aim of this story is to prepare Bill for the walk past the dog he is fearful of. By mentioning the things he enjoys seeing along the way, and the fact that when he holds mum’s hand he is safe, Bill should feel less anxious about the situation.

Why do Social Stories work?

Kids respond well to stories, particularly when they are about them and told in the sing song voice with lots of expression we tend to use when telling stories. By using your child’s name and a situation they’re familiar with, you usually have their attention straight away.

Here’s an example of a Social Story that may be used to correct an undesirable behaviour:

Eight-year-old Daisy is quite shy and has developed the habit of poking her tongue out at people when initially introduced to them.  Her mum is really embarrassed and has asked Daisy to stop doing this, but the behaviour continues. Daisy’s mum could try reading her a Social Story each night.

Daisy has made lots of new friends this year. She is often invited to go to their birthday parties.

Daisy is always so excited about these parties and plans what dress she will wear, days beforehand.

On the day of the party, Daisy always looks beautiful and she wears a big smile on her face when she first walks through the door to her friend’s home.

Daisy is usually greeted by her friend’s mum or dad. Daisy keeps smiling and when greeted, says “Hello!” Everyone smiles and Daisy is invited inside. Parties are always fun!

 

The aim of this type of Social Story is to show Daisy the correct behaviour. When the story is repeated, there is more opportunity for the child to learn and remember the desired behaviour.

Social stories can be written by any family member or carer, for any age child for a range of situations. Older children can be asked to contribute to the story or even write it themselves. The story can also be written as a cartoon, with pictures drawn to reinforce the theme. The sky is really the limit.

Have you tried Social Stories with your children? Why, and what was the result?

For more information, refer to these links:

http://www.polyxo.com/socialstories/

http://www.thegraycenter.org/social-stories/what-are-social-stories

About Nicole

Nicole is a privately practicing Occupational Therapist (OT) in Brisbane, Queensland.   She is mother to 2 beautiful girls ag.  More information about Nicole can be found here:  Gateway Therapies

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Other Posts written by Nicole

Reading

Handwriting

Comments

  1. Renee says

    You two ladies are talented and inspiring individually and amazing to see you join forces!

    YET again another post that’s really relevant to my day to day life. Love the way it is written and the pictures compliment it really well.

    Just this week I was using this technique with my 3 yo and didn’t even recognise that is what I was doing. We’ve just come back from a month overseas and she is quite unsettled and jetlagged and we’re having trouble at bedtime, and she is missing the relatives we began forming a closer bond with while there.

    We usually read a book but for some reason I thought I would start telling a story verbally just about her, and try and weave in the emotions and assure her things were ok. Really interesting to read this post as I have no idea why I did this, it was something that came naturally and I think reading about the “sing song” voice and using their name is what worked well. I think it took it a step away from her experiences in a way to allow her to reflect from a bit of a distance perhaps?

    Interestingly enough, when I started the story (I’m not very creative, I began with “once upon a time there was a little girl called Sophia!”) she immediately told me “no mama, I don’t want a story not out of a book” so I stopped and walked away and she called me back in seconds “no mama, I want the story”. So we went through the general gist that though we were no longer spending every day with the overseas relatives personally, they were still there and loved her and we’d see them again sometime.

    My husband made a great suggestion this week to bring them into her new interest in games – instead of reading/telling a story or looking at photos of the relatives, he thought making a “memory” game would be fun. So we plan on printing two identical copies of a photo of each relative and using it as a matching memory game….perhaps we can combine this with telling stories about each person or remembering experiences as well?

    Wow, I’ve written a whole post in reply but love how you ladies do that with your writing – inspire me to think deeper about the day to day experiences with my children and how I can support their development and smooth their path a little through their challenges. THANKS!

  2. says

    Thanks so much for your reply Renee and for your kinds words. I love the pictures Kelly has added too. Your example of using a Social Story is perfect! Amazing that you did this instinctively!

    I LOVE Bas’s idea of creating a memory game. This is a really great way to remember your relatives, facilitate discussion about them, and reinforce lots of great skills too – like problem solving, working memory etc. I use this game a lot in my therapy sessions, particularly with kids who have difficulties with concentration/ attention.

    Thanks again for your contribution.
    Nic.

  3. says

    Nicole, I’m really excited about this concept. This is exactly what I want to have in my bank of strategies to use with my children. And it doubles as a fun activity/bonding time. Thank you for sharing your expertise with us Nicole. xx

  4. says

    I love social stories, they have been such a gift to us in many sticky situations. I’ve got one coming up on my blog next week about moving house.

    Social stories are the single most popular search topic that lead people to my blog.

    I’ve found with Annie a social story does not always work but a library book on the topic will – just means doing a little research first. :D

  5. says

    Yep, I love social stories too. I haven’t used them formally with my own children yet, though I do have talks with my two year old before we go into certain situations about how we behave (e.g. “when we get get to preschool, you can see Miss Kylie. You have to say good-bye to mummy, but I will come back and get you after you finish playing, eating, sleeping etc”). I have used social stories more formally quite frequently in a therapy context.

    When I first heard about social stories and started using them, I was absolutely amazed at how effective they can be! It is one of those quite simple concepts that can work amazingly well.

    I really enjoyed this post. Nicole, you did a fantastic job of explaining social stories so simply. Thanks

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