Social stories are short guides of a particular situation, event or activity. They include specific information about what to expect in that situation and why.

Day 14 of our #AsIAmChallenge is about supporting autistic people to prepare for social situations by creating “a social story”. Autistic people often find it challenging to read social situations or to prepare to try new things – these simple visual resources can help a person to understand what to expect, what will be expected of them and coping mechanisms which might be useful in the situation. Having access to this tool can make new situations less stressful and can enable autistic people to try new things.

Social stories are short and simple to write however it is only easy if you know how! To prepare for today’s challenge our team visited Hairlough Barbers in Clondalkin. This business already does a huge amount to be autism-friendly, including providing sensory-friendly time,s so we decided to work with their team to prepare a social story on “Getting a Haircut” in their barbershop.

Check out our short how-to video which show the process we went through to write the story. Why not create one for your own school, business, public service or club?

WRITING A SOCIAL STORY

A Social Story is a walkthrough guide of a particular social situation which might cause an autistic person to be anxious or uncomfortable. Knowing what to expect from a certain social situation can eliminate unpredictability, and help the autistic person to be prepared and know what to expect.

  • Social stories should be simple and uncomplicated (no unnecessary language).
  • It is preferable for social stories to run in the order of which the person might experience the events, if possible.
  • If the social story is for a specific place (e.g., an airport) use specific pictures taken from that location and of actual things they may see and experience.
  • If a social story is for a general activity (e.g., a birthday party) it is better to use non-specific pictures or visuals which may apply to the situation. In this case, animated pictures are often used.
  • Do not use negative language. Phase emphasis on what can be done or what is acceptable rather than what cannot be done and what isn’t acceptable.
  • Acknowledge how the autistic person may feel (anxious, nervous, etc.) and label that the situation may be loud or busy, immediately followed by “and this is ok, because…” and include a positive outcome of attending the event or situation.
  • If the social story is for a particular person, make it personal by highlighting their strengths or what they will enjoy about the situation (“I am really good at waiting my turn” or “I like when I get to see my friends”).
  • Finish the social story by stating that when the event is over they get to go shome, or go somewhere they are comfortable or familiar with. It is important to show that the situation has an end to it which the autistic person is happy and comfortable with.