What is a Social Story?


Credit to Sasha Hallagan

Example of a good social story.


Have you ever got so frustrated and impatient when you’re trying to warn the kids about some inappropriate behaviors, they just won’t listen? And then you grab their face/shoulder/hand to force them to pay attention and yell ‘LISTEN!’ at their face. Although unintentionally, it has brought harmful effects on them before helping them behave better. What if Opstopus told you that there is a more effective way of engaging the young ones in influencing behavioral change? This week Opstopus will introduce an alternative method of helping our kids develop expected behaviors – the Social Stories.

What is a Social Story? 

Social story was first used to teach kids with Asperger’s and Autism social skills but it is also used to assist kids with limited social understanding these days. This great tool was first introduced by Carol Gray, who started writing stories to help autistic students she taught as a teacher at Jenison Public Schools in Michigan. She thinks it is important to regard ‘both the typical and autism perspective as ‘equally valid’.  While many people take the information that these kids with autism seem to be lacking for granted, she used social stories to fill them in and has proven social story to be an effective tool in modelling wanted behaviors over the years. A social story is written to meet a child’s need in a way that is meaningful to him/her. Every part of the story has to be specific and directive.

Social Story Components 

Social story has both pictures/illustrations and written text as some kids are visual learners. Each story is tailored to the child’s language processing ability. It is a brief story with just ONE clear goal (one targeted behavior) at a time to be effective. It is a personalized brief story written from the child’s perspective such as ‘I can…’, ‘will…’. The original social story was made up of 4 types of sentences – descriptive (facts/statements), perspective (internal state of those who are involved), directive (desired responses), affirmative (common value/opinion), while cooperative (possible help) and control (reminder for the kids) sentences were then added by Reynhout and Carter.  The vocabulary and sentence structure are appropriate to the development of the kid. Therefore, bombastic words are avoided. Accurate information is added to the story by the author’s careful observation, taking away social interference and assumptions. Expected behaviors are described very clearly at the end of the story in such a way that is completely doable by the kid. Remember, rushing/forcing the expected behaviors by adding in more than one scenarios/social situations will confuse the child and may cause a reverse effect.

When and How is Social Story Used? 

According to Gray, ‘a social story describes a situation, skill or concept in terms of relevant social cues, perspectives, and common responses in a specifically defined style and format’. Why will social story work? When our learners find it difficult to react to certain social situations, they may be suffering from the lack of ‘theory of mind’. They do not know how to differentiate between an appropriate and inappropriate responses. This has caused them to look ‘weird, rude, silly,’ in the eyes of others because they do not know others feel what they feel. The interaction between themselves and other people become confusing when they start getting unpleasant responses from others and yet in their heads they don’t know what they do is inappropriate. This is when social story can be useful in teaching them the expected behaviors in order to make social interaction less unpredictable to them. After the story is written, the author/parents/educators reads it out to the kids. It can be done as a role play to help them familiarize with the story. Initially, we need more social story reading sessions and each sessions may be as long as 30 minutes or more. However, the need of using a social story to that certain behavior may lessen when they get better at understanding a specific social situation. Attached below is a sample of a common social story. Stay tuned to our next post for a complete guide on how to WRITE a social story. Opstopus wishes all of you to have a great weekend!


Posted in Blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *