Social stories can be a powerful tool for any parent, caregiver or educator who has found themselves in a situation where they need to provide special education to a child. Such stories can be useful in the learning process, but they also show children and their caretakers that anyone can lead a comfortable and positive lifestyle by learning through such stories.
Whether your child has ADHD, autism, or any other relevant diagnosis, using social stories will definitely be helpful. If you are new to writing such stories, follow this guide to help you get started and begin creating powerful social stories.
#1 Understand What Social Stories Are
First of all, what are social stories exactly and why do you need them? Social stories have their beginnings in 1991 when Carol Gray first created and coined the concept. At their core, social stories are short descriptive texts that focus on a particular situation, event, or activity that a child could find themselves in. They include specific information about what the child can expect, how they should react, and so on.
The primary purpose of social stories is to prepare children with special needs for different real-life situations. Social stories can help with:
- Developing self-care skills (e.g. personal hygiene), social skills (e.g. saying thank you), and academic abilities
- Explaining how other people behave in certain situations
- Explaining how a child with special needs behaves in certain situations
- A child with special needs coping with changes in routine or distressing events
Because social stories deliver information in a very direct and clear way, they can be very effective in achieving their purpose. Interestingly, social stories can be useful to parents as well because they help parents better understand their children and find the best approach in every particular case.
#2 Remember the Key Components of Social Stories
Every good social story needs to have multiple key components that help the story achieve its goals. Here are the seven key components every social story must have:
- Descriptive: Use the 5Ws (Who, What, Where, When, Why) to describe the situation to the child so that they can identify the situation when they find themselves in it.
- Directive: Write clear instructions about what the child should do and how they should respond when they get into the said situation.
- Perspective: Describe the child’s perspective in this situation and their possible thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
- Affirmative: State a common value, opinion, or fact to emphasize a particular point or rule that the child should understand.
- Cooperative: Explain what the actions of other people in the situation will be after the child responds to the said situation in a particular way.
- Control: Write about a technique the child can use to take a moment to think about their next actions and act appropriately in the situation.
- Partial: Add a blank to your story where the child can fill in their own guess about their next actions. This will encourage the child to act independently.
#3 Start with Something Familiar
When you start thinking about the situation, event, or activity you want to use for your story, it’s better to start with something familiar. This should be both something familiar to you and to your child.
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For example, you might want to decide to use social stories as bedtime stories, so think about the things you discuss with your child when helping them to bed. Likewise, you might want to teach your child to do something with the help of the story (e.g. cover their mouth when sneezing).
#4 Gather Information for Your Story
Once you have decided what the story will be about and what its main goal will be, you will need to gather information for the said story. Most of the time, you will already know everything about the situation, but sometimes you might have to do some work.
Think about where the situation happens, who is participating in it, when it happens, what exactly goes on, how it starts and ends, how long it lasts, and why it all happens. If some things might vary on a case-by-case basis, use words to indicate this (e.g. “sometimes”). Keep in mind the child’s age, interests, background, etc.
#5 Make an Outline Before Writing
Before you start writing your social story, make an outline for it. Even if your story will be short, you still need to have structure for it, nonetheless. Make a list of words or phrases for every point you want to cover in your story. Then, arrange them in a way that will have a logical progression to it – this will enable you to deliver your message in a clear way. This will be your outline.
#6 Be Genuine with Your Writing
Once you start writing, always be genuine. If you are sincere with your wording, it will be much easier for you to create a story that the child will truly get interested in. They need to be able to picture it, feel the emotions they might feel in that moment, think through their actions, and so on.
#7 Add Visuals to Your Social Story
Once you have finished writing, you should add visuals to your social story . The most popular choice are photographs as they are as true to life as possible. However, you can also add drawings or illustrations. Likewise, consider using videos. Just make sure that the visuals you use are relevant to your story and represent it well. After all, they are a tool for the child to be able to better understand the story and learn from it.
#8 Gamify Your Stories While Presenting
One important element of making social stories more engaging is gamification. You can gamify your story while presenting it (e.g. by using it as part of your back-to-school activities) or you can add interactive elements to it beforehand. For instance, the partial component can be seen as one of such elements as it prompts the child to participate in the story right then and there when you are presenting it to them.
#9 Proofread and Edit Your Writing
Last but not least, make sure to proofread and edit your writing. Your story might be very short, but it does have to be grammatically correct and should not have any spelling, punctuation, or wording issues.
Likewise, add some additional features to your story such as a title or a date (of the event if you are writing about one). Make sure that your story has an introduction, body, and conclusion and that it progresses in a logical way.