Big A was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at age two. Reliance on rules and routines is a typical marker of those on the spectrum, and our oldest son is no exception. The new routine of starting preschool this year was rough. Until he fell in love with riding the bus. And then with his teachers and all the fun classroom activities. Now preschool is an exciting part of his routine.
Which means not going to school over Christmas break is going to be a problem.
Big A’s therapists have suggested using social stories to help ease schedule disruptions. And Christmas break is a biiiig schedule disruption. So, Josh and I created a Christmas Break social story that focuses on the differences between the typical school and Christmas break days.
What’s A Social Story?
Developed by educator Carol Gray in 1990, social stories are social learning tools for people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Gray writes,
A Social Story accurately describes a context, skill, achievement, or concept according to 10 defining criteria. These criteria guide Story research, development, and implementation to ensure an overall patient and supportive quality, and a format, “voice”, content, and learning experience that is descriptive, meaningful, and physically, socially, and emotionally safe for the child, adolescent, or adult with autism.
Social stories are both science and art. They deliver information catered to the way an autistic person learns—that’s the science. And social stories are customized to specific situations for specific audiences in order to capture attention—that’s the art.
Three Principles of Social Stories
- Abandon all presumptions
It’s easy for me to assume that everyone understands how a door works. In the world of social stories, no concept, skill, etc is unimportant.
- All experiences are valid
Though I may not understand why the vacuum is so terrifying, it’s still a valid social story subject.
- Both parties are at fault when social difficulties arise
It takes two to tango, y’all, and social interaction isn’t an interaction without more than one person. Social difficulties are a common symptom of autism, but that doesn’t make me off the hook when social difficulties arise. It’s my responsibility to find a solution, change my behavior, etc, too. Not to solely redirect, teach, or punish.
How Are Social Stories Used?
Social stories convey information that many take for granted or mistakenly assume everyone knows.
- “When and How Do I Compliment Someone?”
- “When Is the Best Time to Talk About Trains?”
- “What Constitutes Small Talk?”
- “How I Tie My Shoes”
- “Crossing the Street Safely”
- “Acing the Job Interview”
- “Kisses Don’t Have Teeth”
- “I Can Use My Words”
- “Sometimes Things Don’t Work Out”
For every how-to or don’t-do-that social story written, a positive one should be made as well.
- “I’m Such a Good Listener”
- “Ways I’m a Great Big Brother”
- “How I Finished My Paper/Got The Job/Completed My Goal”
Free Social Stories Printables!
I’ve included the social story we made for Big A about Christmas break as a free printable social story. However, a true social story is customized to the audience and situation. Therefore, I’ve included a printable format with blank spaces. Print it, fill it out, have a grand old time.
Download the blank social story you can fill out.
Or, if you’re strapped for time,
Do you have any experience with Social Stories? Tell me all about it!
See how Big A learned to point at the pictures in social stories here.