Most people in education have heard the term “social story”. It seems to be another one of those catch phrases particularly among the special education population. However, have you really considered how beneficial these stories are for certain students in your schools? Among children with identified Autism or other developmental delays, having an individualized social story can be the difference between a successful school day or a dreadful one. These stories empower students to envision themselves doing the right thing or managing a stressful situation with greater poise.
Social stories often serve as a non-threatening platform in which several things can be accomplished simultaneously. Helping the student to begin to think differently about an otherwise challenging behavior or topic is just one benefit when incorporating social stories. The stories themselves create built-in reminders as well as new strategies to help overcome strong emotional responses. By accomplishing this, the student is subsequently encouraged to change an otherwise inappropriate reaction to a more socially appropriate response in the school environment. As with any change in behavior or outlook, time and repetition are of the essence. These stories need to be used every day until the desired change becomes more generalized. Students also need to have easy access to their stories in whatever media that they can engage most independently. For some, this means simple pictures with phrases or words, for others this means pictures and words accompanied with audio.
One excellent and useful resource for successfully creating and implementing such stories for your student is found in the iPad app entitled “Social Story Creator” by Touch Autism. When purchased, this app gives the owner the ability to use either pre-made stories or the option to create a unique story with actual pictures of the student within it. Oftentimes, when a student sees himself in the story, the message is even more powerful. Most kids just like to see pictures of themselves! So, when given the opportunity to be photographed along with a story about themselves, the issue at hand is somehow minimized just through the actual creation process of building the story. As a school based OT, I have seen some amazing transformations in my students by assisting staff and students with using the stories created by this app.
Lastly, it should be noted that the creation of social stories, especially when the topic is very student specific, can be quite time-consuming. However, when using the aforementioned app, the stories are created quickly, and then easily shared as a PDF to whomever needs access to it. In my district, all students have their own emails and by 5th grade are issued a Chromebook. Therefore, these stories can not only be shared and uploaded to staff members, but also sent directly to the student, when appropriate. Through the use of technology, social stories have come a long way in playing a part in affecting the outcome of a student’s school day. I encourage you to explore this simple, yet powerful strategy as an addition to your therapy tool box.
Author: Natalie Grooms, OTR/L