Social Stories for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

One of the biggest challenges kids on the spectrum face is understanding what
to do in social situations. Kids with autism spectrum disorders often experience
difficulty in reading others’ facial expressions and tone of voice, as well as
finding appropriate responses to everyday social situations. Providing our
students with an opportunity to practice these potentially uncomfortable social
experiences can help give students a “social toolbox” which will help them
interact and make friends with other students and school staff.

One very effective tool is a social story. Social stories were pioneered by
Carol Gray, an autism researcher at
Indiana University. Gray recommends creating short scripts for various social
situations; personalized for each student and created with language and sentence
structure the student can easily process and understand. For example, if you
have a student who needs to learn how to introduce himself to new people, you
may craft a social story like the following:

It can be fun to meet new people. When I meet someone new, I say “My name is
Jim, it’s nice to meet you.” I hold out my right hand so I can shake hands. I
listen when the person tells me his name so I can remember it.I make eye contact
and I smile. I can ask polite questions, like “where are you from?” or “how are
you today?

Social stories can help students with a variety of social situations, from how
to interact on the playground for younger students to how to respond to
customers at a job for older students. The key to using them successfully is to
give students many opportunities to practice in controlled situations with the
script. When students are comfortable in controlled situations, move on to
practicing in other areas and with other participants.

As with many areas of teaching kids with autism spectrum disorders, sometimes a
rough day or negative experience can set skills back a few steps. If you notice
your student beginning to struggle with social situations, it’s perfectly fine
to revisit an old social story and return to practicing in controlled situations
again.

8 years ago by 0

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