Day 28: Social Stories

Social Stories

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This is Day 28 in the series: 31 days on Living with ADHD, Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder: What We Have Tried, What Has Worked, What Hasn’t Worked, and Never Giving Up.  Click here to see all the posts in this series.

Have you heard of Social Stories?  I heard about them a few months ago.  I must admit this blog post goes under the category of “Things I Want To Try Soon”.  Social stories have been on the top of my list to try with Mr Rockstar for a long time.  I kept putting off investigating them because they seemed more complicated than it turns out they really are.  In all actuality we have already created some social stories for Mr Rockstar over the years.  Anytime a major change was coming and we needed him to be ok with it, I would create a little book with pictures of us smiling and getting on an airplane, happily sleeping in a hotel, etc.  We would role play and talk through it over and over in the days leading up to the trip or move until it seemed only natural to get on an airplane (of course if things unintentionally got off script we needed to quickly draw some new stories lol).

What is A Social Story?

A Social Story can be a written or visual guide describing various social interactions, situations, behaviours, skills or concepts.”

A social story can be created for whatever your child struggles with.  It is a positive concrete story with pictures to help the child visualize the appropriate behavior/actions in certain situations.  There are a ton of these already created online or you can make your own to suit your child’s exact needs.  They were originally created for autistic kids but are also used for ADD/ADHD kids as well.

One example of a social story I found on is Keep Shoes On.  It is a great example of how social stories can help.  Mr Rockstar hates shoes and we have struggled with years with him taking off his shoes the moment we are in the car or in a restaurant or anytime, anyplace they bother him.  We used to fight him on it but eventually gave up since it seemed the least of our worries.  You have to pick your battles.  You know?  As he has gotten older and had more occupational therapy his shoes bug him less and he is more willing to keep them on.  I imagine having this social story when he was younger could have saved us some grief!

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Notice it is all positive.  It is simple.  It helps children realize that they need to keep their shoes on in all sorts of situations.  One thing that is difficult for high functioning autistic kids is to transfer social rules from one scenario to another.  We might convince Mr Rockstar that he has to keep his socks on at the McDonalds play place (yes we go when desperate) but that doesn’t mean he understands he needs to keep his socks on at church or the library.  This social story tries to clear up any confusion.  It also says where it is ok to take off shoes.  I wish the pictures were a little bigger.  I would probably blow them up and make a small book with them.  I can’t help but think this would have helped all those months we struggled with Mr Rockstar!

Places to find Social Stories

There are a LOT of social stories online.  Here are just a few I found:

Kansas ASD – this one has tons and tons prewritten with suggested ages.  A lot are practical like “When I go on an Airplane Ride”

The Watson Institute

The New Social Story Book, Over 150 Social Stories that Teach Everyday Social Skills to Children with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, and their Peers – this looks like a great book!  with lots of good reviews. – Carol Gray is the original creator of social stories.  Her website is currently moving to this new web address and it doesn’t appear to be completely up and running yet.  I looked at it a few months back and there were a ton of resources so hopefully it will be completely up soon!

Possible Uses

You can also write your own.  The one I have been wanting to write forever is “Mr Rockstar never hits his mother.  He is always kind.  Mr Rockstar never hurts his sisters.  When he gets mad instead of hitting he ……”.  I probably can get the text from some of the “Anger” social stories and modify it to have pictures of our family and tailor the text to Mr Rockstar’s specific problems.

Are They Effective?


According to Kokina and Kern (2010, p. 825), the results from their meta-analysis on the effectiveness of Social Stories ‘confirmed previous findings regarding the questionable effectiveness of Social Story interventions for students with ASD’ but they then also state that their ‘results do not imply that Social Stories are ineffective’.”

“Kokina and Kern’s review drew from 18 studies, totalling 47 students, and found that the stories appeared to either work well or not at all. Overall, 51% of outcomes were classed as “highly effective” while 44% were classed as “ineffective”, with the effectiveness of an additional 4% classed as “questionable”.”

They go on to say part of the problem with measuring the effectiveness of Social Stories is sometimes supplemental tactics are used along with social stories and this appears to significantly boost their effectiveness.  Also, the child’s reading and comprehension level has to be taken into account.  If you can get the child to help write some of the social story with you so it is in “their words” it is more likely they will recall it at the appropriate time.

So what are the “supplemental tactics”?   Imitation, prompting, priming and positive reinforcement can all be used to boost the effectiveness of the social stories.  First have the child read the story each morning to reinforce it.  After reading the story ask the child questions such as “What can you do when you feel angry?”  You could follow this up with role-playing.  Find another adult to play “mommy” and you play the role of the “child”.  Then let the child play “mommy” and you play the “child”.  Finally have them role play the “child” and you role play “mommy”.  As the day unfolds prompt the child as needed when they start to get angry, “Mr Rockstar I can see you are getting angry.  What can you do when you feel angry?”  Lastly, give the child positive reinforcement for any part he does right.


From experience, sometimes all our children need is to be educated about appropriate behavior.  But sometimes they need a lot more!  Social stories seem like a good place to start as a parent in educating your child in areas they struggle.  The few times I have created a picture book to help Mr Rockstar understand and prepare for an upcoming change and we used it in conjunction with asking questions and role playing, those are the times transitions go smoothly.

So what social story do you need for your child right now?  What do you think they could help you with?

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