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How to Write Social Stories

July 1, 2021


If you’ve wondered how you can use the power of storytelling to teach your child social behaviors—follow this guide to creating social stories.

How to Write Social Stories

Social stories are an invaluable tool for many families. Perhaps because some kids struggle with certain situations or because learning can be a different experience for them. Whatever the reason, social stories help inform children about what they can expect in certain conditions. They also prepare them for what to expect in return.

However, writing social stories can be a time-consuming and intimidating task for many families. For this reason, this article acts as a detailed guide on how to write social stories for kids—but first, what exactly is a social story?

What is a social story?

Think of a social story as a narrative you create to help your audience’s social behavior—whether your audience is children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or neurotypical children. 

Social stories are visual and are custom created for various situations. When writing social stories, include specific step-by-step information for various social situations.

Try to create social stories in the student’s voice and from their perspective.

How to write a social story

When you are writing social stories, several steps could help simplify the task.

 1. Imagine the goal of your social story

First, you need to picture your social story’s purpose and what you are trying to achieve with it. Is the goal to teach kids socially acceptable decorum in public or table manners? Whatever it is, have the image at the back of your mind.

Once you have done that, answer the question: “What is the most important thing I want the kids to understand after reading this story?” 

For a story teaching proper table manners, it could explain why people need to cover their mouths when eating, or why talking while eating isn’t a good thing.

 2. Collect information

Next, collect all the information necessary to portray the story you want to tell. The information you are collecting in this step should include:

  •  Where the situation occurs?
  •  Who the situation arises with?
  •  How long does the situation last?
  •  What happens during the case?
  • How does the case begin?
  • How does the situation end?

Your social stories should be appealing to your kids, so I advise you avoid words that could create anxiety or distress.

The information you collect should also include age-appropriate pictures to support your story, such as: symbols and drawings (to help people who have difficulty reading to understand what your narrative is about). It could also include people’s age, attention span, interests, understanding level, and ability.

Ensure you use words like; “sometimes”, “often”, and “usually”, in your retelling of any situation where the outcome is not guaranteed.

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 3. Tailor the text to the audience

It would be best if you tailored your social story to your audience. In this step, you should create a social story with a title, introduction, body, and conclusion. Here are some tips to ensure this step is a success;

  • Ensure you use a soothing and supportive voice in your writing
  • Your text should answer the questions; where, when, what, who, why, and how
  • Use descriptive, control, directive, and perspective sentences in your text

Sentence types for social stories.

There are several strong sentences that you can use to create a powerful social story. Some of the most important ones are;

 1. Descriptive sentences

Using descriptive sentences in your social story can explain to students what people do in specific social situations. Descriptive sentences can also help you:

  • Describe to your readers where certain conditions occur
  • Express to your kids who the people involved in the cases mentioned in your story are, what they are doing, and why they are doing it
2. Directive sentences

With directive sentences, you can direct your readers’ emotions towards a particular emotional response. You have to be careful using this specific sentence structure because if you misuse them, you can end up limiting your reader’s choices.

Use them sparingly, so your readers have the opportunity to make their own decisions as well. These sentences often come after descriptive sentences and share information on the expected response from your readers.

You should begin directive sentences with things like: “I can try…”, “I should work on…”, etc.

An example of a directive sentence would be: “I will work on staying awake to open the door for you.”

3. Perspective sentences

Perspective sentences are sentences that write how others perceive a particular situation or event. A perspective sentence should:

  •   Describe the subjective state of people, including their thoughts, feelings, and mood in general
  • Lay others’ reactions to a particular situation down so that the kids can learn how people perceive various circumstances

4. Control sentences

You use your control sentence to identify various strategies to increase the comprehension of the story you are trying to tell.

While the other sentences we touched on are added by you when writing the story, the control sentence is mostly added by the kids after reviewing your social story.

For example, a control sentence could be something like: “When we hear the fire alarm, we think of baby sheep looking for their mama.”

How to use sentences in your social stories.

When you think of how to write a social story, you should also think of using the sentences mentioned above. Here are a few tips that can help you when using these sentences in your social stories:

  •   You can omit using directive or control sentences in your writing—if it doesn’t fit the needs of the story or your audience
  •   If you are using control or directive sentences in your writing, ensure you use two to five descriptive or perspective sentences with them

In conclusion

When you are writing social stories, you should ensure you are using visuals as much as text. You can use your story as a bedtime story for kids, as light reading during recess, or even as a story for storytime.

Your control story’s whole point is to guide your kids towards a particular social response or socially accessible behavior. So, try to read the stories daily or at different times during the week—keep it interesting!

This article was featured in Issue 120 – Epilepsy: High Risk for ASD Kids

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