Some of the lessons that we expect children to learn simply by observation and experience are not easy for everyone. Social interactions are complicated, and children with challenges in communication or behavior often do not learn the skills necessary for success. Social Stories are books, usually created by teachers, that address difficult topics children and families may be facing. They can also be created for groups of children to address classroom issues or even global issues.
They are most often customized to reflect a particular child or children, personalizing the messages. We recommend keeping the text simple and at a minimum. Use photographs of the actual child and depending on the child, stock photos and boardmaker images can help simplify.
Stories can be about any topic for example:
a child’s difficulty sitting for circle time
children showing private body parts
someone who frequently bumps into other children
reminders about rules or behavioral expectations.
social cues that are being missed
The text should have between 10 and 20 pages written in very clear, simple language and include many specifics. CSEFEL (the Center for the Social and Emotional Foundations of Early Learning) suggests using 3-5 sentences for each page covering #1 and #2 and 1-2 sentences for the rest of the categories. Illustrations can be simple drawings, pictures from the internet or photographs of the child and/or familiar settings.
Carol Gray’s work on Social Stories was originally developed to support children with autism to make sense of events and experiences in their lives. We, and others, have found that the social stories approach can help a range of children to understand feelings and events that might be confusing or complicated.
Click here to find more information on Carol Gray Social Stories.
In Somerville, teachers and therapists have developed social stories that you might find useful. Feel free to download and customize these for your specific needs. Click here for Social Stories.
The stories follow a simple formula - this may not be exactly the same for your story, but gives some key “stems” to get started:
An introduction of some sort to give context: My name is ______ and I am in preschool at _________. My teachers are __________. I like to __________________. Or, We go to school at ______. Our teachers are ________.
Foreshadowing of the issue: Some people __________. Sometimes ________.
Get to the heart of it, name it: But other times __________________.
Identify the feelings: It can be hard when _____________. Sometimes children feel ________ when they _________.
Connect feelings and actions: Sometimes kids get so angry they want to hurt someone. _______ hit a friend and then they both felt bad, and sad, and mad.
Resolution: When kids get angry it helps to _______________.
Wrap up and planning for the future: When kids get that angry feeling they can __________, and __________.
Reference: “Scripted Stories for Social Situations-Tip Sheet” from the Center for the Social and Emotional Foundations of Early Learning (CSEFEL), “Promoting Social Emotional Competence” 10/03.
Carol Gray's Book
Questions to consider when Writing a Social Story
What is the overall issue?
What are some details about the child and setting?
What are the challenging behaviors or conflicts that should be included?
How does the child feel about these issues?
What is the effect of these behaviors/issues?
How do these behaviors/issues make other people feel?
What do we want to convey?
What does the child need to learn and practice? How would you illustrate this?