What are Social Stories?

Social stories are a tool used to help explain what to expect and how to behave in a variety of social situations. These stories are often used to help children with autism spectrum disorder understand new social environments, such as going back to school, meeting new friends, or visiting the library. 

Social stories consist of pictures, words, or both, and are used to help children understand what will happen in new social scenarios. They can be personalized to each child so that the child is the main character of the story. The personalized story will help prepare the child for any social encounters they may experience and will teach the child what to expect and what social behaviors they can use in each specific social situation.

How do you use Social Stories?

Social stories should be written in first person format with the child as the main character. The story should be read to the child repetitively leading up to a certain social situation. For example, before starting school, a parent can spend the one to two weeks before school starts reading a social story about going back to school with their child every night before bedtime. While reading the story, the parent can stop and ask a question about the story to ensure that the child is comprehending what the story is about. Social stories should concisely explain details about a social scenario while teaching the child how to behave in that scenario.

What are the benefits of using them?

Social stories help prepare children for novel social situations. A story about going back to school can talk about a variety of different back to school topics including, the child’s morning routine at home, their transportation method for getting to school, meeting new teachers and classmates, seeing old friends, learning new things, eating lunch at school, transportation home from school, and after school activities such as homework and a bedtime routine. 

These details will help prepare a child for all of the activities that they will encounter throughout their first day of school. Social stories can also be divided into shorter stories. For example, a parent and child can read a social story about meeting new friends and playing with them at recess, and read another social story about academics, including meeting a new teacher, learning new things, and about how to engage in school appropriate coping skills when academic challenges arise in the classroom.

Where can I find Social Stories?

There are many websites with free social stories available, like the ones pictured above and below provided by Educating Everyone 4 Life on the Teachers Pay Teachers website. An online search for social stories will lead to many different social story examples for a wide variety of social situations. Below are some links to premade social stories online:

There is also an app called Social Story Creator & Library that can be downloaded to your iPhone or iPad to allow parents to create and use social stories directly on their device.

DIY: Social Stories

It is helpful when social stories are personalized to each child. Parents can use pictures of their child or cartoon clipart picture from an online image search to personalize their own story. Next, parents can take these pictures and paste them into a document, write a caption for each picture, and print it out. 

An example of this would be to take a picture of your child standing in front of their school. Paste that picture into a document with the caption, “Today is my first day of school.” The next page can have a picture of the child’s backpack and lunch box with the caption, “I will bring my new backpack and lunch box to school.” Children can help parents choose the pictures and captions.

A DIY social story involves more creative thinking, but can be the most beneficial option as social stories work best when they are individualized to each child.

More on Social Stories

Social stories can be helpful for many situations, including going to the dentist, getting a haircut, traveling on an airplane, and more! 

Consider using a social story with your child any time they are going to experience something new or out of their regular routine. Whether you’re going to the doctor for a checkup or grandma is coming to visit, social stories can be used to help children understand what to expect in different social situations.

How MeBe can Help

At MeBe, our team of Board Certified Behavior Analysts, Occupational Therapists, and Speech and Language Pathologists utilize social stories to teach children what to expect and how to behave in new social situations. MeBe’s interdisciplinary team of professionals can help families create personalized social stories for children as novel social scenarios arise. 

If you’re ready to learn more about Applied Behavior Analysis, Speech and Language Pathology, Occupational Therapy, or Feeding Therapy services at MeBe, contact us today.

For helpful tips from the MeBe therapy team, check out @mebefamily on Instagram and Facebook and visit the MeBe Family YouTube channel.