How to Create a Social Story

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Social stories were first created by Carol Gray in 1991. They were meant to be used as a tool for teaching social interactions and improve communication skills in children with autism. At first, these stories were created for those with Asperger’s syndrome or high functioning autism, however, today social stories are used across the spectrum and for children without autism who also have poor communication skills.

    Social stories are short stories that describe a specific situation and gives steps to take to help someone successfully navigate the situation. The story includes answers to the questions who, what, where, when and why using pictures and text. Each social story usually concentrates on a specific skill, such as:

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    • Following routines and coping with changes in routine
    • Understanding non-verbal communication
    • Being empathetic or understanding how others might react in a situation
    • Following rules
    • Developing self-care skills
    • How to cope with emotions, such as anger

    Social stories are best when designed for a specific child and include things the child is interested in. For example, if your child is interested in dogs, you can use dogs as the characters in the story. Because children with autism are often visual learners, pictures are often an important part of the social story.


    When developing a social story, you should keep your purpose in mind. What do you want to teach? What is the main message of the story? You should be able to describe the goal in a sentence.


    Once you have the purpose of the story, list the steps or procedure the child needs to follow. Create a sentence to explain each step. You can use a picture to reinforce the step. According to Carol Gray, social stories should be made up using several different types of sentences:

    • Descriptive – answers the what, who, where, why, when of the situation
    • Perspective – refers to opinions, feels, ideas or beliefs of another person
    • Directive – provides an appropriate response or responses to a situation. These sentences should guide the child, not give absolutes.
    • Affirmation – reaffirms or enhances the meaning of previous sentences
    • Cooperative – identifies how others might be of help
    • Control – statements written by the child the story is written for that give personal meaning to the story
    • Partial – incomplete sentences that allow the child to guess what comes next

    Gray explains that each story should have only one directive sentences and between two and five of the other types of sentences. You can use social stories to describe a variety of situations and teach different skills. They can also be used as a way to prepare a child for an upcoming event, such as a school trip to a museum and the rules to follow during the trip.


    Online Resources for Developing Social Stories


    There are a number of websites that you can use to help you develop social stories:


    Free Software

    Social Story Apps


  • References:

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    “How to Write a Social Story,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, The National Autistic Society


    “Social Stories: Their Uses and Benefits,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, The National Autistic Society

Published On: December 16, 2014