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:
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