Social stories
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Social stories Craig Domanski Caldwell College PS 572--Teaching Language and Social Skills to Children with Autism. Overview. History Definitions Uses Components Guidelines 4-Term Contingency Example References. History. Developed by Carol Gray

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Social storiesCraig DomanskiCaldwell CollegePS 572--Teaching Language and Social Skills to Children with Autism


  • History

  • Definitions

  • Uses

  • Components

  • Guidelines

  • 4-Term Contingency

  • Example

  • References


  • Developed by Carol Gray

    • Director of The Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding in Grand Rapids, Michigan


    • Had been a teacher of students with autism and a consultant to public schools for 22 years

  • First defined in 1991

    • Has undergone many revisions since then

  • Present description:

    • “Currently, a Social Story is considered a process that results in a product for a person with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder.” (Gray, pp. 13-1)

  • Process

    • Must be written with consideration for the perspective of the child with ASD (Gray, 13-1)

  • Product

    • Short story in a specialized format

    • Describes a situation, concept, or social skill

What situations are social stories written for
What situations are Social Stories written for?

  • Are individualized based on the needs of the child

  • Possible uses:

    • Troubling situations

    • Describe skills that may be in the social or academic curriculums

    • Individualize skills that are taught in a social skills training setting

    • Break down a goal into manageable steps

    • Describe a classroom routine

    • Acknowledging achievement

      • First story should be about something that the child is successful in doing

      • Helps to identify with the story (Gray, pp. 13-2)

Components of a social story
Components of a social story

  • Descriptive statements

    • Backbone of the story

      • The “logic” and “accuracy” of the story that might be “reassuring to those who are overwhelmed by social concepts and situations.” (Gray, 13-2)

    • Factual statements; no opinions

    • Should be the most frequent types of statements used

Examples of descriptive statements
Examples of descriptive statements

  • “My name is Craig.”

  • “I work in a school.”

  • “It’s hot during the summer.”

  • Perspective statements

    • The “heart” of the story

    • Describe feelings, opinions, thoughts that are involved in a situation

      • The invisible (but important) aspects of a social situation

    • Rarely used to describe the internal events in the child with autism

      • Used most often to refer to the other people in the story

Examples of perspective statements
Examples of perspective statements

  • “My friends like to play on the playground.”

  • “The teacher knows the answer to the math homework.”

  • “Sometimes, people feel tired when they stay up late.”

  • Directive statements

    • Name the desired response or list of possible responses

    • Tell the child what to do in a situation

    • Often begin with, “I will try…” or “I can…”

      • Avoids being taken too literally for fear of child not knowing there’s any wiggle room

    • Must be written with much consideration

Examples of directive statements
Examples of directive statements

  • “I will try to raise my hand.”

  • “I can try to share the toys with my friends.”

  • “I can decide to play with blocks, read a book, or color a picture.”

    • Offers a list of choices

  • Affirmative statements

    • Express a common opinion about an element of the situation

    • Usually accompany another type of statement in the story

    • Basically used to:

      • Stress an important point

      • Refer to a rule

      • Reassure the reader

Examples of affirmative statements
Examples of affirmative statements

  • “It’s a good idea to …”

  • “It’s ok to…”

  • “<I can ask a friend for his toy.> That’s the right thing to do.”

  • Partial statements

    • Fill-in statements that allow the child to actively participate in the story

    • Helps to show that the child comprehends to story

Examples of partial statements
Examples of partial statements

  • “If I share, my friends will be so _____.”

  • “Mom and Dad will be so ____ if I go to bed like a big kid.”

The social story ratio
The Social Story Ratio

  • Applied to the story as a whole

  • Desired ratio is:

    0-1 directive statements

    2-5 descriptive, perspective, and/or affirmative statements

Other kinds of statements
Other kinds of statements

  • Control sentences

    • Identify strategies that the learner can use in a troubling situation

      • “When someone says, ‘I changed my mind,’ I can think the idea is getting better--like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.” (Gray, 13-4)

  • Cooperative sentences

    • Identifies the people that will help the child, and how they will help

      • “Mom and Dad can help me take deep breaths when I’m upset.”


  • Step 1: Picture the goal

    • Important to depict all relevant information that will occur in a social situation

      • Use text and illustrations; be concrete

  • Step 2: Gather information

    • Include where and when the situation occurs, who is involved, how events are sequenced, what occurs, and why it occurs

  • Step 3: Individualize the text

    • Remember the learning styles, needs, interests, and abilities of the target student

    • Always use positive statements

  • Step 4: Teach with the title

    • Should state the overall gist of the story

      • I.e., “Mike Ties his Shoes”

How to implement a social story
How to implement a Social Story

  • Introducing the story

    • Most important element in implementation

    • Introduced in a relaxed setting

      • Using it punitively is not recommended

  • Reviewing the story

    • “This is perhaps the most important element in the implementation of a social story.” (Gray, 13-8)

    • Share joint attention with the child on the story

    • Have multiple people review the story with the child

      • Encourages generalization

  • Fading the story

    • “Experience indicates it may not be possible, or advisable, to fade a Social Story from use.” (Gray, pp. 13-9)

    • Re-write it with systematic omissions

      • Use partial statements

    • Review it less frequently

Where does a social story lie in the 4 term contingency
Where does a Social Story lie in the 4-term contingency?

(Social Story for sharing a toy)

Contextual stimulus SD Response Consequence

Play setting Peer asks for toy Student shares Praise

Peer present Social Story

  • NOTE: A Social Story would technically be considered a stimulus prompt, which occurs simultaneously (or in this case, just prior to) the SD

Example of a social story craig works hard in school
Example of a Social Story:Craig works hard in school

Hi, my name is Craig.

<descriptive statement>

  • So much work makes me sad. statement>

    When I get sad about too much work, it’s a good idea to: <affirmative statement>

    • Stop

    • Take a deep breath

    • Ask for a break

References I can do it! I can graduate from Caldwell College!!! <affirmative statement>

Gray, C. (2000). The New Social Story Book: Illustrated Edition. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons, Inc.

Reynhout, G., & Carter, M. (2007). Social Story efficacy with a child with autism spectrum disorder and moderate intellectual disability. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 22, 173-182.

Thiemann, K.S., & Goldstein, H. (2001). Social stories, written text cues, and video feedback: Effects on social communication of children with autism. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 34, 425-446.

Weiss, M.J. (2008, June). Teaching children with autistic spectrum disorders. Presentation given for Teaching Language and Social Skills to Children with Autism, Caldwell College.