More Tips for Creating Social Stories – Part II

Posted by Dr. Linda Miller on 2/4/2022 10:15:00 AM

Along with a few tips, I previously talked about social stories, created by Carol Gray as a visual aid for students with autism, and shared how my family used social stories at home to help our son, who has autism, plan for and manage our daily lives. Here are more tips for incorporating social stories into your home or classroom.

Tip #5: Use pictures to support the goal  

When it comes to using images, the type of image matters. Photographs are almost always better than graphics and are especially beneficial for younger children. Using photos of the child will make the story more personable. 

If it's possible, have the child "act out" the social story while you take pictures--almost like role-playing. In many cases, after posing for the photos, the child will only need the social story as a reminder. 

When photos aren't available or suitable for the story, try to find graphics with which the child can connect. For instance, if Cindy has red hair, use an image of a character with red hair. 


Tip #6: Include thought bubbles

Students benefit from social stories that show positive, desirable thoughts. For instance, you might have a thought bubble above Johnny's head and the text "I shouldn't squeeze the tube too hard." Thought bubbles can also contain pictures.


Tip #7: Find the right time.

Introducing the social story too early or late will garner less than optimal results. You want the child to have enough time to process the story, but not so much time as they will forget. 

A social story about a field trip can be shown the day before, an hour before, and then we will stand in line for the bus. A social story about not hitting can be shown at the beginning of each day and followed up just before going to the playground.


Tip #8: Involve the child (if possible)

Children enjoy creating stories about themselves, so why not get them involved? Once, after weeks of trying to get my son to put his things away after school (his idea of putting them away involved flinging them at me as he ran past), I created a social story using him as the model for the pictures. I printed the pictures out, and he helped me put them in order and glue them into a booklet. 

When he came home from school the next day, I met him at the door, prepared to go over the story with him. He pushed it away, hung up his backpack, put his lunchbox next to the sink, and sat down for a snack. Win!


Tip #9: Repeat, repeat, repeat 

Sometimes you will only need to show a story one time. Hurray! Unfortunately, it may take several readings before the goal is reached. Even after the goal is reached, the child may revert to old, familiar behaviors. Keep the social story in a prominent place where it can serve as a reminder.  


Tip #10: Make it easy on yourself

While each story will be dependent on the child, there are cases for universal stories. I had students every year who had trouble entering the class and settling down to work. I created a social story with a bald main character and made copies to keep on file. Each time I needed it, I pulled it out, colored the hair and skin to match the child, and I was good to go.

Creating social stories demands an investment of time and energy. But once you've seen that investment pay off, you will find countless ways to use them. You will also find that in using them, you are helping your student achieve success and accomplish goals like never before!