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Social Stories About Anxiety

Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

Many students get anxiety but don't understand how it impacts them or their behavior. In this lesson, we'll look at what a social story is and several examples of social stories to address student anxiety.

What Are Social Stories?

Everyone gets anxiety sometimes. Whether it's a big deadline coming up, or an awkward social situation, anxiety is a normal part of life. But, for some people, including our students, anxiety can be a debilitating problem. In this lesson, we're going to look at using social stories to help your students deal with anxiety.

Social stories are first-person narratives, written in short sentences, which explain a situation in that gives a student difficulty. A social story describes how the situation impacts students and the people around them, and how to behave appropriately. Social stories are especially helpful for students with disabilities like autism or ADHD, who have trouble with impulse control and understanding how their actions impact others.

Now, let's look at some examples of social stories to reduce anxiety and manage behaviors. Remember that your social stories should be personalized to your students' experience, including pictures that help guide them toward positive behavior.

Decreasing Anxiety

First, we'll look at sample stories where it's necessary to change the situation to reduce anxiety.

Too Many Stimuli

School is a fun place where I can learn. School has a lot of people, noises and things to look at. I get overwhelmed by all these things sometimes and begin to feel anxious. Other people don't feel things the same way I do. They don't get overwhelmed by sights or sounds, so they don't understand why I am so anxious. When I feel anxious, my palms sweat, I get jittery, and my chest feels tight. I don't like these feelings. I don't feel happy if I am anxious. It's hard to learn when I'm anxious.

I can tell my teacher when I am anxious. She will help me calm down. I can take big breaths. This will make my chest feel less tight. I can ask to go somewhere dark or quiet for a little bit. This will help me feel calm. I like feeling calm. Feeling calm makes me happy. If I feel calm I can learn more. Learning makes me and my teacher happy.

A Change in Activities

I like being at home. Being at home is nice because I live with my parents. I like my parents. I like playing with my toys at home, too. Playing with my toys is fun. I can't play with my toys all the time though. Sometimes I have to put my toys away so I can leave for school.

Leaving home makes me anxious. I feel worried and scared about changing what I'm doing. Even though I like school, it's hard to change activities. I like to keep doing the same thing.

If I get anxious, my muscles tense up and my heart starts racing. I don't like feeling this way, and it makes it even harder to stop playing with my toys to go to school.

My parents love me and they don't want me to be anxious. If I tell my parents I am anxious, they can help me calm down. I can take three deep breaths. Breathing helps slow down my heart. If my body feels less tense, I will feel less anxious. If I am less anxious it is easier to put my toys away and go to school. I like going to school because I learn at school. Learning is fun. I am happy when I go to school to learn.

Give students examples of what the desired behavior looks like
going to school

Managing Anxiety Behaviors

Sometimes it isn't possible to reduce anxiety in a situation, but students can learn to manage their negative behaviors when they're anxious. Here are a couple examples.

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