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Usually, kids with autism tend to generalise one experience with another similar one, which is why a new situation can prove to be quite overwhelming from them. Social stories prepare kids with autism to handle a social event or situation appropriately. Social skill stories for autism are highly emphasised on for improving one’s social skills.
What Are Social Stories?
A social story is a short story which breaks down any new or complex situation into easy-to-understand steps using highly accurate and descriptive information. It answers the 5Ws, i.e. who, what, where, when and why of a social situation using graphic and written information.
The aim of using social stories is to teach a different set of skills to children with autism, such as taking relevant cues in a particular situation, perceiving rules, routines, situations, abstract concepts or events, etc. Social stories help kids to expect the series of events (what comes next) in a social situation and prepare them for executive functioning (planning and organising).
History of Social Stories
The concept of social stories was designed by Carol Gray in 1991. During her career as a teacher, she began to experiment on her idea of ‘social stories’ to help her autistic students interact well in school-related activities which she aced over the years.
The terms ‘social story’ and ‘social stories’ are a trademark designed and fully patented by Carol Gray.
Benefits of Social Stories for Children With Autism
The use of social stories for children with autism is directly linked to positive outcomes. Let’s check out the following benefits of social stories:
1. Memory development
Repetitive reading of short descriptive stories helps them in getting used to certain situations, including memory skills and prediction.
Social stories portray different characters within a scenario and their feelings according to the situation. It helps children relate to a situation from various viewpoints, including their own. Ultimately, by understanding how one’s actions result have a certain impact on others, it prompts the development of empathy in kids.
3. Communicative skills
A social story tends to impart information and instructions as clearly and accurately as possible. When kids are given clear instructions, they know how to act or follow through on rules or patterns under such a situation in reality. It adds to the development of their communicative skills.
4. Clear understanding
A social story is individualised as every kid is unique in their own way. They all have different levels of understanding and experience. So when a social story is based on their current understanding and experience level, it leverages their learning skills by deepening their understanding level.
5. Development of literacy skills
Again, social skills are highly descriptive which also help in enhancing the literacy skills of your child.
6. Developing a coping mechanism
Social stories help in the development of coping mechanisms in children, which again helps reduce their anxiety levels in a complex situation.
7. Self care skills
Social stories help in the development of self-caring skills.
8. Emotional understanding
Social stories help kids understand their emotions such as anger, sadness, happiness, etc. and how to handle them effectively.
One of the main benefits of social stories is that they develop interactive skills in your kid so they can gel well with other kids and people without any difficulty.
Through social stories, kids are taught to understand their own behaviour. This has a long-term benefit.
How to Write Social Stories
A social story is usually written in a sentence format, and it consists of seven basic sentences to form a social story for children with autism. These are:
1. Perspective Sentences
It gives the general description of someone’s internal state such as his or her feelings, thoughts, beliefs, knowledge and so on. For example:
My friend likes running.
2. Descriptive Sentences
This type of sentence explains a reason behind a certain activity or event. In short, these answer the ‘why’ questions. For example:
We take medicines to get well.
3. Directive Sentences
Such sentences are used to provide directions or a choice of action under a given situation in a constructive way. For example:
“I’ll take a bath before dinner”.
4. Affirmative Sentences
These sentences are used to emphasise on the importance or support the meaning of a statement. For example:
I will take a bath daily. It is important to maintain good hygiene.
5. Control Sentences
Control sentences are the sentences formed by a kid with autism after reviewing their social story. These are to recollect personal strategies or solutions to use under certain circumstances. For example:
I need to take a bath every day to maintain good health and hygiene.
6. Cooperative Sentences
The aim of these sentences is to help the children understand the important contribution of others in a given situation or activity. For example:
“I want to go to an aquarium. My mom or dad will drive me there”.
7. Partial Sentences
These sentences are used for those children who have developed sufficient knowledge and are understanding of a certain situation. It encourages kids to guess their own and someone else’s correct response in a given situation.
How to Use Social Stories for Autistic Kids
Following are some common usage of social stories:
- Teaching children to perform a simple task like removing their shoes and placing them on the shoe rack.
- Helping kids prepare for a complex event such as organising a birthday party, which includes social expectations.
- Assisting children in comprehending and reacting to facial expressions, vocal tones or body language.
- Encouraging them to make a choice in a complex setting by giving them options to choose from.
Introduction of social stories at an early stage is better. If you notice signs of autism in your kid at an early stage, opting for social stories for preschoolers with autism may be helpful. Also, if you don’t know how and where to start, it is recommended to take an expert’s advice to help your kid learn these skills.