As a psychologist working with young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder, I often find myself in awe of their many ‘superpowers’ – attention to detail, memory and creativity, to name a few. However, this difference in information processing can also lead to gaps in their understanding of other aspects of life. This is where Social StoriesTM can help.
A Social StoryTM is a social learning tool used by parents, carers or professionals to share information with people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It was developed in 1990 by a teacher named Carol Gray to describe the rules of a PE game to one of her students. As the name suggests, Social StoriesTM are written like a story book with text and illustrations. They are tailored to the child’s skills, attention span and interests and can also be used with teenagers and adults!
Social stories describe a range of situations, skills, concepts or achievements, such as:
- How to cope with strong emotions such as anger or fear
- Situations such as getting a haircut at the hairdresser or starting a new grade at school
- Self-care skills (e.g., getting dressed, brushing teeth)
- Social skills (e.g., taking turns, greeting people, sharing)
- Concepts like resilience or even understanding the person’s autism diagnosis
Social StoriesTM are developed with help from a psychologist or speech pathologist. The child’s support team can play a role in:
- Reading the Social StoryTM to the child
- Using the story to prepare for an event such as starting a new school year
- Introducing the story when the child (and adult) are calm and content
- Helping the child to understand the story. For example, by asking questions about the main points
- Planning how often to read the story and when to review it
- Reducing the frequency of reading, once the child has understood the concept or learned the skill
- Finding a space to store the stories, for example in a document folder or electronically
Want to find out more? Carol Gray’s book, The New Social Story Book (2010) has some great examples. Or get in touch with us and learn more about how to teach your child with ASD new important life skills by working with one of our psychologists!
Yvette Zevon is a psychologist based at The Northern Centre for Child Development, who is completing the registrar program in Educational and Developmental Psychology. She is passionate about working with young people and families and is grateful for the daily opportunities to express her playful side.
Have you seen our founder Amanda Abel’s new online school for parents? It’s called The Psychology Room and her first course has been lauched – The Good Night Toolbox – with tools for parents to help their child get to sleep at night. Check it out here!