Social Stories for Autistic Children

Social Stories For Autistic Children

Brief background of social stories for kids with ASD

Social stories for autism were conceptualized in 1991 by pediatric doctor and autism researcher, Dr. Carol Gray. She wanted to help enhance the social skills and behaviors of individuals with ASD. Social stories can teach proper social interaction by giving a brief description of a situation using appropriate social cues, the perspectives of others, and a recommended appropriate response. Most social stories for autistic individuals are used to educate and instruct how to respond to certain situations. They are also used to acknowledge and praise the successful completion of a task.

Social stories are generally presented in sentence format to break down a challenging social situation into steps. These include the deletion of irrelevant information and the utilization of highly descriptive words, terms, or phrases that would allow people with autism to fully grasp the entirety of a specific situation. Among the social skills people on the spectrum can learn through social stories are the identification of important cues in a particular situation, understanding another person’s point of view, and following rules and routines.

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How to write effective social stories for kids with special needs

Social stories are generally written in sentence format. There are seven basic sentence types usually used in the construction of social stories for children with special needs. These are:

  1. Perspective sentences

    These sentences are general descriptions of the internal state of another person, like his/her knowledge, thoughts, beliefs, feelings, motivations, and opinions, as well as his/her physical condition. An example of this type is “my brother likes to swim.”

  2. Descriptive sentences

    These sentences generally answer the “why” questions in a social situation or event. They are factual and observable sentences free from assumptions and opinions and are used to identify the most important factors in a social situation. An example is “children go to school to study.”

  3. Directive sentences

    These sentences suggest or present a response or choice of actions for a given situation or event in a positive way. One example is “I will brush my teeth after each meal.”

  4. Control sentences

    These are sentences written by a child with autism after reviewing his/her social story. These are used to identify or remember the personal strategies or solutions the child will use to recall and apply information. An example is “I need to brush my teeth after each meal to keep them healthy.”

  5. Affirmative sentences

    These sentences are used to support or reinforce the meaning of statements and may stress a shared value or opinion. These can be employed along with directive, perspective, and/or descriptive sentences. For example, “I will try to brush my teeth after each meal. It is very important to have healthy teeth.”

  6. Cooperative sentences

    These sentences teach a child to realize or understand the important roles played by other people in a certain situation or activity. An example is: “There are a lot of cars on the street. My dad and mom can assist me in crossing the street.”

  7. Partial sentences

    These are sentences used to encourage a kid with autism to come up with the right response in his/her part in a given scenario. These sentences are recommended when a child on the spectrum has already acquired sufficient understanding of specific situations or events, as well as the appropriate and expected actions or behaviors for each situation or event. An example is “My brother loves to _____.”

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Some benefits of and reasons for creating social stories for autistic children

Social stories are generally used to prepare children with autism to appropriately respond to specific situations or events they could experience in their everyday life. Here are some benefits of or reasons for developing social stories for children with special needs:

  • Social stories help kids with ASD in learning self-care and social skills.
  • They help children with special needs understand their behavior and the reasons why a person behaves in a specific way.
  • They assist autistic kids in understanding emotions such as anger, sadness, and happiness, as well as how to effectively address them.
  • They help children on the spectrum easily cope with various changes and transitions in their everyday life, as well as with distressing or stressful events they may experience.
  • Social stories can be used to encourage children to improve their strengths and provide positive feedback for behaving properly or for following instructions.
  • They serve as a personalized and customized behavioral intervention tool to help children on the spectrum learn how to behave properly in certain situations.
  • The stories reinforce proper or correct behavior in autistic children.
  • Social stories are used to teach autistic kids how to join activities, use their imagination, and play with others.
  • Social stories are useful tools in teaching kids with special needs how to make and maintain friendships, as well as to participate in group activities.

Here are some visual examples of social stories for children with special needs:

Social Stories for Autistic Children   Social Stories for Autistic Children

Social Stories for Autistic Children   Social Stories for Autistic Children

General tips for creating and telling social stories for autistic children

Don’t know how to write a social story? Here are some tips for parents and carers of kids with autism on how to effectively create social stories to deal with the specific needs of a child under their care. These social story ideas will help you craft a custom story that suits your child’s personality.

  1. Determine/decide on the topic of the social story

    When writing a social story, parents or carers should focus on one situation or topic at a time. This topic could be general, such as brushing one’s teeth, washing one’s hands, and taking a bath, or a specific one like boarding an airplane and visiting the doctor for a medical check-up.

  2. Base the features of the main character on the features of the child

    Try to create your story as a reflection of your child and his/her family. You can achieve this by making the main character’s physical features, gender, interests, and skills similar to those of your child. You can include family members in the story to teach your child their importance in his/her life.

  3. Associate social stories with positive behaviors

    You should always create your story in such a way that your child can associate it with positive behaviors and use it to fight negative emotions, as well as to accept new situations and activities positively. Make sure the atmosphere, attitude, and tone of the characters in the story are comforting, understanding, positive, and patient at all times.

  4. Make different stories for every specific need

    You should develop one story for each specific need of a child. Some examples of specific needs are how to communicate properly with peers and adults, how to develop friendships and relationships, and the proper things to do after waking up.

  5. Properly account for your child’s mood when telling a social story

    When you are planning to tell a social story to your autistic child, consider his/her mood as well as the time and place of your story-telling activity. Make sure the child is fresh, relaxed, energetic, and free from anxiety symptoms during the activity.

  6. Tell or present a social story about a certain behavior before urging your child to display said behavior

    You should tell a social story about a particular behavior before the time you expect him/her to exhibit the behavior in a social event or situation. This will allow your child to remember the story and base his/her actions on the behavior of the character in the story.

  7. Ask your child to tell his/her own story

    Once in a while, you should ask your child to tell you his/her own story. This is an effective way to learn the things your child experiences every day or the things your child wants to do. Listen closely to what your child tells you to help resolve any problems he/she is experiencing.


Social stories can successfully teach kids with autism daily tasks as well as help them transition to new environments. Be sure to observe behavior and response regularly so you can best utilize this powerful communication tool.

Autism Parenting Magazine tries to deliver honest, unbiased reviews, resources, and advice, but please note that due to the variety of capabilities of people on the spectrum, information cannot be guaranteed by the magazine or its writers. Medical content, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained within is never intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read within.

Amy KD Tobik

Amy KD Tobik, Editor-in-Chief of Autism Parenting Magazine, has more than 30 years of experience as a published writer and editor. A graduate of Sweet Briar College in Virginia, Amy’s background includes magazine, newspaper, and book publishing. As a special needs advocate and editor, she coordinates with more than 300 doctors, autism specialists, and researchers to ensure people diagnosed with autism receive the services and supports they need for life. She has two adult children and lives in the Carolinas with her husband.

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