Social Stories for Individuals with Autism Tips

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Writing Your Own Social Stories

While there a several books on the market which provide social stories for common everyday activities, such as brushing teeth or waiting in line, the best source for social stories is you. You know what situations your child will need to be prepared for. In addition to the basic guidelines given in the previous LifeTip entitled "Social Stories", here are few other pointers on perfecting and using social stories:

  • Use pictures--Even if your child can read, their mind will always respond better to pictures. While the picutes used for PECS are ideal for their simplicity and are easily recognizable, sometimes it is impossible to find a picture that is most appropriate. The internet is a great means of finding photos, drawings and clip art to help convey your story. Photos, are another great option. For instance, If you are writing a story about going to your local grocery store, then use photo of the outside of the actual store.

  • Timing--When you read the social story to your child is very important. When the situation is already occurring, i.e. when you are at the store, is probably too late. Before you leave the house is best. Give your child time to soak in the details, rather than waiting until they are already in the situation and experiencing the stress. However, it is a good idea to bring the story with you for them to look at as a visual reminder.

  • Cataloging--Creating a catalog or booklet of all your social stories will help you for future situations. If you write them on the computer, you'll be glad you saved them. Not just for yourself, but for other friends who are caring for children with autism. If you have them printed or written out, it is worth the cost to have them laminated or placed in sheet protectors and stored in a 3-ring binder. Often times, the children enjoy having their own book of stories to look at when they are playing. The pictures help to build memories of activites and events they have done with you.


Social Stories

Carol Grey developed social stories to help individuals with an autism spectrum disorder navigate through social situations. The social stories work in a number of ways to make some experiences less stressful for the individual. They are specifically designed to help the individual recognize social cues as well as what to expect in the situation. The social story is written from the student's perspective to help him internalize the words. It also helps the student recognize other people's emotions as well. The structure of social stories involves four types of sentences: descriptive, perspective, directive and control sentences. The descriptive sentences provide information about where and when the activity will take place as well as who will be involved. For example, "Sometimes I want to say something to my teacher when I am in class." The perspective sentences in social stories helps the individual recognize emotions and thoughts that others might have during the activity. For example, "My teacher is happy when I raise my hand before talking." The directive sentences help the student understand what is expected of him. For example, "When I want to say something, I raise my hand." Finally, the control sentence is one that the student can write himself. This sentence is not used in all social stories but it is helpful in making the story memorable to the student.

What is the Theory of Mind?

The Theory of Mind

The Theory of Mind recognizes that people with autism have difficulty understanding that other individuals have different thoughts, interests and feelings than they do. The autistic individual assumes that everyone experiences and thinks the same as he does. The Theory of Mind may explain why an individual with autism seems to lack empathy. The autistic person does not lack empathy because he is indifferent but because he is simply unaware of the other person's perspective and emotions. There are ways to help an individual with autism recognize the unique feelings of others. Using social stories is a great approach for building understanding that other people have different feelings. Emotion drills in discrete trial can also be used to explore feelings. The therapist can present scenarios that can be explained and the therapist can use images of faces showing different emotions and have the child choose which face goes with which situation.

How are social stories used to prepare for a community setting?

Social Stories

One of the most valuable tools that can be used to prepare for stressful or unfamiliar situations is social stories developed by Carol Gray. These stories are effective in helping the individual with autism learn about what to expect in a situation--not just what will happen, but what is expected of them, too. The person with autism uses a script to help him anticipate the events that are about to occur. This is a valuable way to ease stress in unfamiliar surroundings. The social stories are also useful in helping the individual with autism understand what others around him might be thinking and feeling. The social stories serve as a guide that helps the individual with autism rehearse what to say and what actions to take in the community setting. The focus of the stories is on the various "Wh" questions that are so baffling to individuals on the autism spectrum: who, what, where, and when. The stories detail where and when the community outing will take place. They describe who will be there and what activities will occur, and what behaviors are appropriate. Stories can be adapted to suit everyone's needs, regardless of where a person may fall on the spectrum.

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Tammi Reynolds
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