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Social Stories
Social Stories | Story 01 | Story 02 | Story 03
A social story is basically a map through a social situation.   Put yourself back in the marketplace, and think about how a map would have helped you.   Not only would it have shown you the way, you could have used it to see how far you had to go and roughly how long it would take you.   And that information is reassuring.   If it was a hand drawn one by someone who knew the area, it might have had notable landmarks on it (turn left by the big red coffee shop).   If you've ever followed someone's hand drawn directions, you'll know how reassuring it is when you pass one of their landmarks.

To my mind, there are two ways of delivering a social story, direct and indirect.
Direct Social Stories

Social StoriesTM were invented by Carol Gray.   The usually have a very specific structure, using set types of sentences, such as descriptive (referring to things around the child, things they may experience), perspective (how they or others may feel, emotionally or physically), or directive (things they need to do), you can read more here.

Another really good guide to writing proper (most of mine are not true Social Stories) Social Stories is to be found here, I recommend as a starting point for beginners who want or need to do it properly.

Keeping the earlier map/directions analogy in my head, mine take the following format:Social Map

  • This is the situation
  • You will experience this
  • These are the landmarks
  • Do this and that
  • Other people will do that and this
  • It all works out fine in the end, as long as you follow the script and stick to the rules.

By landmarks, I mean concrete references in time, such as lunchtime, when you wake up, at 3:30pm, when your name is called.

Thinking about a map, pretend you were following directions to a new job.   You'd follow the map very closely the first day, reading it a lot as you go, mentally marking on it where you are in your journey.   You may even have studied it before you set out.   Each time you saw a landmark or street name, you'd take comfort from the fact you are definitely on the right route.

The second day, you'd feel more confident, not using the map as much.   Over time, you'd use it less and less, as long as nothing changes you can do the journey without help.   You may even start leaving your map at home   Its often the same with social stories. 

Now imagine one day, on your way to work, a road is closed and there is a diversion!   Oh no!   How do you get to work?   As long as the diversion is well signposted, you can follow the signs (very carefully, like you did the map on the first day).   As soon as it brings you back to your route, its ok.   It may have helped if the road closure had been advertised ahead of time, you could have planned your alternative route.   But with good signposting, a sudden, unexpected diversion is manageable.   Now turn that back to autism.

Indirect Social Stories

Indirect social stories are something I came up with a while back.   A couple of people mentioned that their children were happy to go to see the Doctor as they'd seen Peppa Pig do it in an episode.   I thought "Aha!".   My indirect social stories take the following format:

  • I'm your hero/heroine, you really look up to me
  • When I find myself in this situation I do/feel this and that
  • It all works out fine for me in the end

There can be any number of reasons for choosing an indirect route, maybe the child doesn't like being told what to do (we are talking about children after all!), or maybe they require additional motivation.   It may be that they aren't even aware of the situation the story will be supporting them through yet.   You may be wanting to 'plant the seed' ready for when they do find out about that blood test, house move or change in bedtime routine.

Comic Strip Conversations
Comic Strip Conversations were also invented by Carol Gray, they use simple cartoon stick characters with speech and thought bubbles to represent the different ways of communicating.   They may show what some is saying, what they are thinking, and what they are intending to do.   Often they are used to help people with autism see the 'hidden' parts of a social situation, and are great for 'stranger danger' work among other things.

If I ever get round to using one I'll post an example!