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How to Create a Personal Space Social Story

November 21, 2023

Social stories about personal space can help a person with autism to understand their personal space boundaries better while respecting those of others. Social stories can range from being a personal space social story that helps the individual better understand personal space boundaries and respect the personal space of others to different situations, like visiting the doctor or going to school.

How to Create a Personal Space Social Story
https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/personal-space-social-story/

Social stories can help autistic children understand different boundaries and behavioral expectations before the experience begins. Social and emotional skills can be taught, and social stories are generally easy to carry around if reminders are needed or as a comfort item.

Social stories were created during the 1990s by a pediatrician named Dr. Carol Gray for the autistic children she treated. Dr. Carol Gray has been writing books about social stories and other subjects since her first book was published in 1993.

If you’d like to learn more about creating, using, and the benefits of social stories, you can download your free guide here:

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Social Stories for autistic children

Why Use a Personal Space Social Story? 

A story about personal space can benefit children diagnosed with autism because they can have difficulty knowing and understanding what appropriate social space looks like, may feel comfortable for different people, and why personal space can keep them safe. These skills are necessary for daily life and different relationships and can be dependent on the social situation.

In different social situations, important social skills are considered necessary to follow. There are different boundaries for different people, and teaching these to a child can help them build social relationships and allow them to interact with complete strangers to stay healthy and safe.

For example, standing next to a friend is okay, whereas standing that close to a stranger is not okay. It can become tricky when discussing social norms among different cultures and people; personal space is very personal and depends on the individual.

Struggling with Personal Space 

When teaching personal space, it is important to note the skill and ability of the child. Plenty of children’s books can teach social skills and provide a personal space and social story in a way that children can understand.

There are also social story videos on YouTube for visual learners who enjoy videos more than pictures. There are free social stories available online, and when using resources like Teachers Pay Teachers or other websites, they are generally fairly priced and of good quality because they are created by special education teachers and other professionals who work directly with autistic children.

Depending on the child’s developmental and skill level, personal boundaries can be difficult for many people, which is where they will likely understand this. The concept of personal space can be even more difficult because it isn’t only the individual’s personal space but also other people’s space.


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Since so many aspects depend on the individual, the benefits social stories bring are listed below. This list is by no means complete; these are some of the main benefits:

  • Teaches children diagnosed with different special needs to understand the behavior of others and themselves a little more
  • Provides examples that promote and support proper behaviors and social norms
  • Children are given examples of different emotions and how they look and feel, which helps them better understand their own emotions
  • Provides opportunities and examples where autistic children can see and practice ways to meet people and have better social relationships
  • Can provide examples and opportunities for self-care and developing social and emotional skills
  • Provides support and examples for children during times when an unexpected event occurs
  • Children diagnosed with autism have pictures and examples of joining in with friends during activities, starting and maintaining a conversation and playing, and thinking abstractly and creatively.

How to Create a Personal Space Social Story  

It is important to know what social/emotional learning and goals the autistic child uses a social story for. A social story about personal space may include different boundaries, both personal and with their friends, an essential social skill, like the flow of a conversation or voicing they need space, and provide different examples of social narratives.

Once the essentials are figured out, a parent, teacher, or other professional working with the child can search the internet for social stories that have already been created, or they can find templates and photos to create a personalized social story for the child.

Below are seven examples and sentence formats that work with social stories for autistic children, as well as other children with special needs:

  1. Perspective sentences – Sentences that contain a general description of what could be going on inside another person’s mind, like their emotional state, beliefs, opinions, and knowledge, and can also include aspects of certain parts of their physical condition
  2. Affirmative sentences – These sentences are used as a possible stress and/or support for a statement that has been shared.
  3. Descriptive sentences – These factual and helpful sentences help answer the whys that can occur during activities, events, and other social situations.
  4. Directive sentences – Directive sentences are the ones where answers and consequences are given in a light and positive way.
  5. Cooperative sentences – Children are given more examples to understand better situations and why certain people do certain things during activities and other social situations.
  6. Partial sentences – These are the sentences that allow a pause for the child to insert their thoughts and answers to what is happening during the situation in the story.
  7. Control sentences – Children who know and have heard the story write these sentences to help identify and memorize possible solutions and strategies during events that need to be remembered.

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Social Stories for autistic children

An Example of a Personal Space Social Story

A personal space social story can include a lot of different settings and aspects. They are generally specific to the individual, who can then work on building different social and emotional skills through the examples provided in the story.

For example, if a child is unaware that they typically stand too close to strangers and other children, they may not know that it can make these individuals uncomfortable. In a social story, the character could start explaining appropriate boundaries for the autistic child reading the social story and the other people standing around them.

Then, the personal space social story could continue by providing examples of different social skills to use with different people, like saying hello at a more socially acceptable distance with people responding positively. Then, at the end of the story, opportunities and sentences could be left open for the child to fill in appropriate behaviors and language they could use for future social interactions.

Conclusion

Knowing what social stories are and knowing more about finding and creating an individualized personal space social story can be beneficial to parents, teachers, and practitioners. Skills taught and learned through social stories can help individuals grow socially and emotionally and allow them to participate in and enjoy activities and events they may have previously struggled with.

Many great resources provide examples of different social stories on Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, and other sources. If a parent is having difficulty finding a specific story, they can ask their child’s doctor, teacher, or one of the practitioners who may be a part of the team for their child.

FAQs

Q: What is a personal space social story?

A: A personal space social story is a visual and textual tool designed to help individuals, especially those with autism or sensory processing issues, understand and respect the concept of personal space. It uses simple language and illustrations to convey appropriate behavior and boundaries in social situations.

Q: How do I decide the content of a personal space social story?

A: The content should be tailored to the individual’s needs and situations. Identify specific scenarios where personal space is important, such as classroom interactions, greetings, or public transportation. Highlight key concepts like respecting others’ personal space, body language, and the consequences of not doing so.

Q: What format should I use for a personal space social story?

A: Personal space social stories can be created in various formats, including printed booklets, digital slideshows, or video presentations. Choose a format that suits the individual’s learning style and preferences. Ensure it’s easily accessible for repeated use.

Q: How can I make the story engaging and relatable?

A: Use clear, simple language and visuals to make the story engaging and relatable. Incorporate pictures or illustrations of the individual and others in familiar settings. Make it interactive by including questions, scenarios, or role-play exercises to reinforce the message.

Q: How do I introduce and reinforce the social story?

A: Introduce the social story in a calm and comfortable environment. Read or show it to the individual regularly, discussing the concepts and encouraging questions. Use positive reinforcement and praise when the individual demonstrates appropriate personal space behavior.

References:

Effects of social stories intervention for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7489673/

Using Children’s Literature to Strengthen Social and Emotional Learning
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320040250_Using_Children’s_Literature_to_Strengthen_Social_and_Emotional_Learning

Effects of Perspective Sentences in Social Stories™ on Improving the Adaptive Behaviors of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Related Disabilities

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