Just like many professional athletes devise a “game plan” to help them prepare for their sporting events, children
can also benefit from “game plans” to help them with their events of daily life. These game plans are especially helpful for children who have anxiety, nervousness, or certain conditions like Autism or Sensory Processing Disorder. These “game plans” are often referred to as “social stories”.
What exactly is a social story?
A social story is a visual way to prepare your child for an upcoming situation or event that may be anxiety provoking for them through the use of pictures, words, videos, or modeling. Every social story will look and sound different as each one is supposed situation your child will be entering into. Make the social stories even more effective by tailoring them to meet your child’s specific learning style (for example, does your child learn best through pictures, videos, checklists, or modeling?).
How do you make a social story?
Because social stories are intended to be different for each situation, they can take on lots of different “looks” so here are a few examples of various types.
1. Book Style (Perfect for kids who learn best through pictures)
- Find some pictures of the place or situation you will be going to and print them out.
- Make sure to find pictures of all the steps involved in that situation and the more detailed the steps, the better…
- Glue the pictures onto blank papers and add short phrases (if your child can read).
- Organize the papers into the logical steps and staple or tie together like a book.
- Sit down with your child to look at and discuss all the pictures in the book together
- TIME SAVER- Buy a social story book or pack of picture cards to help save you time! See below for my favorite picks!!
2. Video style (Perfect for kids who learn best through videos)
Thanks to smart phones and the internet, especially channels like YouTube, you can find a video for nearly every situation.
- Browse through some videos of places or events to find ones that best match the situation that is causing anxiety for your child. (Please make sure to view the video ahead of time to ensure it is appropriate).
- View the video your child interjecting more specific information as to how it will relate to your child’s specific situation.
- (BEST SCENARIO)- Make your own individualized video of the location or event ahead of time (if possible) and narrate the video to include things to look out for.
3. Checklist Style (Perfect for kids who like a concrete list of steps and like things to be orderly).
A social story checklist is great method to use with a child who needs to stay on task during a social outing. A visual checklist is simply a list of steps with a picture attached to the side. This will be a great visual reminder of what your child has already experienced and what is expected to happen next.
- Write down all the steps involved in a situation and find a picture to correlate with each step
- Glue the pictures down on a page in the order your child will experience them
- Place boxes next to each picture to cross off after its finished
4. Modeling/Role Playing (Great for specific situations that are very unique to your child).
Using modeling or role playing is crucial when there’s a unique situation that your child will be facing, and there’s not available resources online or through videos on how to handle the situation.
- The child should role play as themselves and parent should always role play the other individual to avoid confusion
- Use props, costumes, dress-up clothes, or other accessories to make the role play as realistic for the child as possible
- The parent should always clearly explain the situation he will be modeling beforehand
- (FOR BEST RESULTS)- Video the modeling/role playing situation so that you and your child can watch it together afterwards and discuss how it the situation went
- Better Help’s online therapists can also help to model/ role play situations that cause anxiety to help manage emotions and behaviors
When to use social stories?
Social stories can be used for ANY situation but here are some common, anxiety provoking situations for kids…
- Going to school
- Going to the doctor/dentist
- Going to a birthday party
- Going on a field trip
- Attending church/place of worship
- Going out to a restaurant
- Going to a sporting event
- Having a sleep over
- Working out an argument with a friend
- Sharing toys
A ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of a cure! Spend some time beforehand to decrease the anxiety and stress of situations to avoid meltdowns and hopefully your child’s “story” will be a happy one!