Social Stories An unique opportunity to promote change in children with socialization skill deficits
Social Stories have been utilized in home and school programs for children with autism with increasing frequency. A social story is essentially a story that is simplified in order to explain a given event, sequence, setting, etc. for a child, usually a child with a disability (Carol Gray, 2000).
Usually this story uses simple sentences that give a break down, or a task analysis, of an event. (e.g. riding in an elevator, going to the movies, taking a picture). The type of story or the focus of the story that is used is dependent upon the needs of the child. Social stories can be created to work with the needs of each individual child.
What Is a Social Story? A Social Story: • is a simple method that may be used at home, at school, or in the community to teach or maintain social skills, daily living skills, or behavior management skills of students with socialization skill deficits.
addresses specific situations by teaching the student appropriate behaviors and responses; for example: • how to cope with changes in routine • how to get along with peers • how to work in the classroom
provides: • an explanation of detailed social information, such as guidelines for waiting a turn in conversation, sharing, or demonstrating good manners.
provides: • desired responses instead of problem behaviors, such as shutting down and not benefiting from a field trip because it is not routine, tantruming when a babysitter comes over, or being impolite at a birthday party because somebody bumped into a child.
Possible purposes of a social story… • To describe social situations and appropriate responses • To correct student responses to a social situation in a nonthreatening manner • To personalize instruction for each student • To break goals into easy steps • To teach routines for better retention and generalization • To help the student cope with both expected and unexpected transitions • To address a wide variety of problem behaviors (i.e., aggression, fear, obsessions)
Identify the target behavior you wish change or maintain. Focus on writing the social story about the behavior you want the individual to learn or increase. Examples Johnny is a first grader diagnosed with autism. He spends the majority of his school day in the general education classroom with paraprofessional support and a modified curriculum. Because Johnny is not able to ask others for what he wants, sometimes when he wants a toy another is playing with, he simply goes over and takes it from the other child. Betsy is a seventh grader who has Asperger Syndrome. She loves to study different types of birds and is constantly talking to her peers about birds even when they show no interest. Sometimes her conversations about birds get her in trouble at school because she is totally unaware of when it is inappropriate to engage in such conversations. How to Get Started
Define the target behavior and collect data. … To make sure the social story is effective, everybody including teachers, parents, and the child need to have an identical understanding of what behavior is being targeted. This means that specific descriptive and measurable information must be noted. Examples To measure Johnny’s toy-grabbing behavior, a tally mark is placed on a sheet of paper each time Johnny grabs a toy from a peer. Then the number of tally marks are totaled on a separate sheet of paper. This type of data collection can last for 3 to 5 days or even longer until sufficient information has been gathered. To measure the number of times Betsy engages in inappropriate conversations about birds, the teacher puts a tally mark for each time that Betsy initiates a conversation about birds and/or does not allow for reciprocity.
Complete the following steps to develop an effective social story. • Observe situations that often present problem behaviors. • Ask the student for her perspective of the specific situation. • Interview teachers, parents, and members of the community concerning the student’s behavior (see example questions at bottom of page). • Gather information about the child’s interests, abilities, impairments, and motivating factors. • Determine the topics for the social story. • If possible, videotape the situation. Afterwards watch and discuss it with the child to determine his perspective of the behavior and why it occurs.
Example questions to determine target behavior • Does the behavior ever occur following a request to perform a difficult task? • Does the behavior ever occur when the students wants to get a toy, food, or activity that she has been told she cannot have? • Does it appear as if the child enjoys performing the behavior? (It feels, tastes, looks, smells, and/or sounds pleasing.) • When the behavior occurs, does the child seem calm and unaware of anything else going on around him? • Does the behavior occur whenever you stop attending to the child? • Would the behavior occur repeatedly in the same way for very long periods of time, if no one was around? (For example, rocking back and forth for over an hour.)
Formula for Developing a Social Story The four types of sentences: 1. Descriptive – tells where situations occur, who is involved, what they are doing, and why. Example: "At recess, there are many children playing with the ball.“
2. Perspective – describes the reactions and feelings of the student and of other people. Example: "When I take the ball without asking, it makes the other children angry.“
3. Directive – tells student what to do. Example: "When I want to play with the ball, I will ask the other children first.“
4. Control – after the social story is read, the student writes sentences to help her remember the information from the social story (often considered optional). Example: The student writes, "It can make other children angry if I take the ball without asking."
According to Carol Grey, a good social story includes the following characteristics: • One directive or control statement for every two to five descriptive and/or perspective statements. The story may not include a directive sentence. Choose the number of sentences to go on each page, according to the child’s functioning level.
One to three sentences per page may be appropriate for some students; however, if the student is higher functioning, more sentences may be used. In fact, a social story for a child with Asperger Syndrome may be text only and fill one half to a full page.
To facilitate the child’s understanding of the social story, you may want to address only one concept per page, depending on the child's cognitive skills.
Social stories can be written in book format, bound or placed in a notebook. However, they can also be written on poster board, cardboard, laminated paper, or on a chalk-board.
Photographs, hand-drawn illustrations, or pictorial icons can help aid in student's understanding the social story. Some children are distracted by pictures or may have difficulty generalizing from a picture.
Johnny’s Social Story Every day I like to play with the toys in my classroom. (Descriptive) Page one This is a time to share and be with other children. (Perspective) Page two Sometimes a child is playing with a toy I want. (Perspective) Page three If I want that toy, I should ask first. I can say, "May I play with that toy?" or "When you are finished with that toy, can I play with it?" (Directive) Page four
If the child says no, I can play with a different toy and wait until the toy I want is available. (Directive) Page five When I play, I will try to share and have fun. (Directive) Page six
Betsy’s Social Story I think that birds are very exciting to talk about. (Perspective) I like to tell people what I know about birds. (Perspective) Sometimes my friends like to talk to me about other things. (Perspective) It is important that I listen to them talk about other topics too. (Directive) Page one It makes other people feel good when I listen to and comment on what they’re saying. (Perspective) I should also listen to the teacher during class and talk about what the teacher is talking about. (Directive) During recess, I can talk to Mrs. Smith for five minutes about birds. (Descriptive) I can tell a friend four things about birds, and then I need to ask her about something that she is interested in. (Descriptive) Page two
How to Put a Social Story Into Practice How to use a social story: • Read the story to the child in a location with few distractions. • Briefly explain the importance of a social story. • For example, discuss with Johnny the importance of sharing – making friends, getting along.
Read through the story once or twice and, when necessary, model the desired behavior. • For example, after reading with Johnny his social story on sharing, the adult plays with one of Johnny’s favorite toys. Johnny is encouraged to ask for the toy and respond appropriately.
If appropriate, create a schedule for the child in which the story is read at the same time and in the same way each time.
Read the story just prior to a situation in which the problem behavior is likely to occur, if appropriate. • For example, if Johnny’s problem with toy grabbing occurs mainly at recess, it may be helpful to read the social story right before recess each day.
Consider providing opportunities for the student to read the social story with other children or adults.
How to determine if it’s working: • Observe the student’s behavior and comments when the story is presented. • Conduct ongoing data collection on the child’s behavior (Has the child acquired, generalized, and maintained the new behavior?). • Compare your observations to those of teachers, parents, and others. • Collect data now that the story has been implemented and compare the data to the previous data.
If the student has not responded to the social story after an appropriate length of time (note: this varies by target behavior and the time each child requires to learn a new skill), review the social story and how it has been used. If modifications are needed, change only one aspect of the social story at a time.
For example, change when the story is read; do not change the words of the story or who reads the story. This helps determine what aspect of the social story works and does not work with the child. If Johnny’s social story is read to him before recess, he may become too excited and be unable to listen to the story. Therefore, maybe the story should be read at a different time during the day.
What to do next: • Fade the social story. • By extending the time between readings or having the student read the story independently. • Work with the student to identify new social skills to address. • Create new social stories that address other targeted behaviors.
Help the student continue to generalize new behaviors. • For example, the teacher could help Johnny generalize toy grabbing in situations outside of the classroom, such as recess, PE, and music. • Reintroduce the previous story, as needed. • For example, Johnny stopped grabbing toys away from others for approximately one month. However, the story was reintroduced when the behavior began to reoccur.
Summary • A social story helps students with ASD acquire, generalize, and maintain social skills that make them more successful at school, home and the community. • The first step in writing a social story is to identify the target behavior. • Write the social story taking care that the vocabulary matches the student's reading/functioning level. If possible, write the story with the student.
Format the story to match the learner's age and functioning level. For example, when writing a social story for an early elementary-age student, consider limiting the number of sentences to 1 to 3 per page and use a book-like format. If writing a social story for a high school student who has average to above-average cognitive abilities, consider constructing the story on an 8 1/2" by 11" piece paper using single- or double-space format that resembles an essay.
Include any combination of descriptive, perspective, directive, or control sentences.According to Carol Gray, a good rule of thumb is 0-1 directives for 2-5 descriptive/perspective sentences. • If needed, use pictures, photographs, or icons to aid comprehension.
Construct the social story out of materials appropriate for the child’s developmental level using cardboard, poster board, laminated pages, etc.
Social Story Example 1 Scenario 1 Rachel is a sixth-grade girl with autism. She is transitioning into seventh grade and is having extreme anxiety about changing schools. Going to seventh grade is what we all do after we finish sixth grade. (Descriptive) Page One Everyone feels nervous about starting a new school year and getting new teachers. (Perspective) Page two
I will still see a lot of adults and peers I know. (Descriptive) Mrs. Jones will be the secretary and Mrs. Smith will be the nurse. (Descriptive) I will also see my resource teacher, Mrs. Davis each day. (Descriptive) Page three I will come to the same school building for seventh grade as I did for sixth grade. (Descriptive) Page four My sixth-grade friends will become my seventh-grade friends. (Descriptive) Page five Cafeteria time will be the same. (Descriptive) My classes will be different. (Descriptive) Page six
I will like being a seventh grader and will be happy to come to school. (Perspective) Page seven
Social Story Example 2 Scenario 2 Beth is a seventh grader diagnosed with Asperger syndrome who is going to be transitioning to the eighth grade soon. She is experiencing some anxiety about the move. There are many types of teachers in middle school. (Descriptive) It may be difficult to get used to new teachers because I don’t know them very well. (Perspective) Page One I will have a new teacher named Mrs. Jones, who will visit me on Tuesdays. (Descriptive) I will visit with her for a short time before lunch. (Descriptive) Page two
When I am with Mrs. Jones, I will respect her and be a good listener. (Directive) Page three It may be fun to meet with Mrs. Jones because we will play games, listen to music, and talk. (Descriptive) Page four
Thank You Edward Miller Behavior Specialist The Institute for Behavior Change