What is it?
Social stories are used to teach social skills to children with autism (1). A social story is a simple description of an everyday social situation, written from a child’s perspective. Social stories can be used in different situations. For example, social stories can help a child prepare for upcoming changes in routine, or learn appropriate social interactions for situations that they encounter (2). The idea is that the child rehearses the story ahead of time, with an adult. Then, when the situation actually happens, the child can use the story to help guide his or her behavior (1).
Each social story uses several different types of sentences:
- Descriptive sentences (De) give who, what, where, and why details about the situation so the child can recognize when that situation actually occurs.
- Directive sentences (Di) tell the child the appropriate social responses in that situation.
- Perspective sentences (P) describe one of the child’s possible feelings or responses.
- Affirmative sentences (A) often refer to a law or a rule or are a commonly shared opinion.
- Cooperative sentences (Co) describe how other people will help out in a given situation.
- Control sentences (Cn) are created by the child, to help remember strategies that work for him or her. (1, 3).
For example, a social story using all six sentence types is:
When we go to the shoe store,
There will be many shoes to choose from. (De)
I might not know which shoes I like. (P)
That is okay with everyone. (A)
I can hold onto my string while I decide. (Cn)
When I decide about the shoes, I will tell the grown-up. (Di)
The grown-up will go get the shoes for me. (Co)
It has been suggested that social stories should use each of these types of sentences only in specific ratios or amounts. For example, some researchers suggest that directive sentences should not be used as much as descriptive sentences (1). However, social stories can still be effective without following these rules (3). Social stories are usually written by teachers, speech therapists, and parents, and are individualized for the child with autism (4).