Autism- writing social stories for young children
Social stories can be a lifesaver for you and your child on the Autism spectrum. Many children on the spectrum are able to process written language or pictures much more effectively than spoken Language. Socials stories can be used as a visual support with these children. They are effective with children who are reading words as well as those who are not and can be used to waylay fears of new situations or situations that have been problematic in the past. Once you understand your child you as a parent can begin to bring social stories into your family life.
A social story is a short, very systematic story about an activity or a behavior that is always written in the positive.
Your first step is to decide what behavior you want to target. I have a 7 year old student who loves to go outdoor, unfortunately he just runs outside without his mom or dad. Mom being a pro-active parent has but a bell on the door which alerts them if the door opens; even so this is a problematic behavior. So the target behavior would be to stop and go ask to go outside.
Next you need to know your student, is he reading? Is he using the PEC’s (Picture Exchange Communication) system, which by the way I highly recommend. Your child does not have to be able to read to make use of a social story but some understanding of PECs is helpful. However Actual pictures may also be used and are in some instances preferential if the situation is let’s say is a visit to the dentist. In this case you can take pictures of the door of the office, the waiting room, the people who work there etc. and intersperse them throughout your story. You may also want to use a combination of pictures or PECS and simple written language.
So now you have decided on your target behavior and which method you are going to use to help your child. There are a few important rules to remember..,
1- Keep it simple. Your sentences should be short and to the point.
“ I only go outside with mom or Dad”
2-Keep it positive. NEVER write in the negative.
Instead of “I never go out the door alone” or “If I go outside alone Mom will be sad “ Instead write “ I always ask Mom or Dad before I go outside. Mom and Dad are happy when I ask them before I go out” It may sound like a small difference but it has a big impact on how effective your story will be.
3- Always use feeling words. “Mom will happy, I will be happy too.” If you are writing a story about a situation that could be problematic try using the words “ I am Okay, I am safe”
4- Remember your child is likely to process written language easier than spoken so write those calming words that you would say.
5- Your story can be short,
Wednesday I am going to the dentists. I am okay , I am Happy.
( picture of the doctors office)
I will get in the car with mom and we will drive to his office.I will get out of the car with Mom.
(Happy picture of child)
I am safe, I am okay.
(Picture of hygienist)
We walk into the waiting room, the hygienist will call us to go in. Continue in this way explaining each step of the visit.
Once you have your story ready it as many times as you can, just like you would read any story with your child. Make it enjoyable to both of you.
Social stories can be a powerful asset in your continuing path to navigate the world in which your child lives.