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How to Write Social Stories

How to Write Social Stories

The rules or expectations of social interactions are typically learned by example. Children with communication difficulties and/or behavior challenges often do not learn these interactions incidentally, but may need more explicit instructions through a scripted description of the social situation. Scripted stories for social situations help children understand social interactions, situations, expectations, social cues, the script of unfamiliar activities, and/or social rules.

Social stories are brief descriptive stories that provide information regarding a social situation. When children are given information that helps them understand the expectations of a situation, their problem behavior within that situation is reduced or minimized. Parents, teachers and caregivers can use these simple stories as a tool to prepare the child for a new situation, to address challenging behavior within a setting or situation, or to teach new skills. The following is an example of a social story explaining when it’s appropriate to run.

RUNNING
I like to run. It is fun to go fast.
It’s okay to run when I am playing outside.
I can run when I am on the playground.
Sometimes I feel like running, but it is dangerous to run when I am inside.
Running inside could hurt me or other people.
When people are inside, they walk.
Walking inside is safe.
I will try to walk inside and only run when I am outside on the playground.
My teachers and parents like it when I remember to walk inside.

WRITING A SOCIAL STORY

Begin by observing the child in the situation you are addressing. Try to take on the child’s perspective and include aspects of his or her feelings or views in the story. Also, include usual occurrences in the social situation, clear “expectations”, and the perspective of others, along with considering possible variations.

There are three types of sentences used in writing social stories:

1. Descriptive sentences: objectively define anticipated events where a situation occurs, who is involved, what they are doing and why. (e.g., When people are inside, they walk.)

2. Perspective sentences: describe the internal status of the person or persons involved, their thoughts, feelings, or moods. (e.g., Running inside could hurt me or other people.)

3. Directive sentences: are individualized statements of desired responses stated in a positive manner. They may begin “I can try…” or “I will work on…”. Try to avoid sentences starting with “Do not” or definitive statements. (e.g., I will try to walk in inside.)

A Social Story should have 3 to 5 descriptive and perspective sentences for each directive sentence. Avoid using too many directive sentences. Write in first person and on the child’s developmental skill level. Also remember to use pictures that fit within the child’s developmental skill level to supplement text.

Here’s an example of a social story, “I can use my words”

To create a booklet of this story, download the power point file and follow the included instructions: Use_My_Words.ppt

This guide comes from:

Lentini, R., Vaughn, B.J., & Fox, L. (2005). Teaching Tools for Young Children with Challenging Behavior. University of South Florida. https://www.challengingbehavior.org/do/resources/teaching_tools/ttyc_toc.htm

About The Author(s)

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Scott Carchedi is the founder and co-editor of SSWN. Scott provides technology support and consultative services to number of school social work associations throughout the US. Scott is also a practicing school social worker in the western suburbs of Chicago, serving grades 8-12.

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