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How to Use Social Stories for Autism Therapy

Instructor: Lori Sturdivant

Lori has a specialist's degree in Instructional Leadership/Mild Moderate and currently serves as the Lead Teacher for The University of Southern Mississippi's Autism Project.

Are you considering incorporating social stories into your classroom? This lesson will help you create social stories for students with autism spectrum disorder. The lesson includes examples and strategies for personalizing each story.

What Would YOU Do?

Johnny throws a tantrum filled with kicking, screaming, and throwing objects when an announcement comes over the loudspeaker. You cannot control the announcements, so what would you do? One solution is using social stories.

What Are Social Stories?

Social stories are short stories that discuss particular scenarios, situations, events, activities etc. These narratives include specific information about what to expect in that situation, rationale for what is happening, and appropriate responses to each situation.

These stories are specifically designed to improve the social skills of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to address deficits in social skills. Many of the narratives incorporate visuals that can assist with teaching these social cues as well as the perspective of others, which are both areas that can be difficult for students with ASD.

Why Should I Use Social Stories?

Social stories present information to students in concrete terms. This will improve their understanding of difficult or ambiguous situations, events, activities etc. They can be modified to meet a variety of learner needs from sequencing, to executive functioning skills, to behavior concerns as well as social skill difficulties. Social stories can also decrease the student's anxiety about future situations by preparing them with appropriate responsive actions.

Example

The following is an example of a social story for a student who has meltdowns when someone makes an unexpected announcement (i.e. not the routine morning announcements). Loud noises and changes in routine are common triggers for students with autism. Later in the lesson, we will discuss how to individualize social stories so each line is numbered for reference.

Line 1: The morning announcements take place from 7:40-7:45 each morning. (Insert picture of the loudspeaker in the classroom with a clock at 7:40.)

Line 2: Sometimes more announcements are made during the day. (Insert picture of the loudspeaker in the classroom with clocks showing different times.)

Line 3: The announcements can be loud, and it frightens Johnny. (Insert picture of frightened face.)

Line 4: When this happens, Johnny puts on his earphones. (Insert picture of earphones.)

Line 5: The announcements are important because they let the teachers and students know about important information. (Insert picture of teachers.)

  • This is the rationale. You are letting the student know why the announcements must happen.

Line 6: When the announcements are over, Johnny's teacher lets him know to take off the earphones. (Insert picture of taking off the earphones.)

Line 7: If Johnny can be brave and use the earphones, and not scream or throw things he gets a gold star. (Insert picture of gold star.)

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