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Child Therapist Post: Social Stories Help Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

A social story is a learning tool that is used to help individuals with autism know what to expect and how to behave in new social situations.

Often children with autism do not know what to expect in a new situation. A social story is a written guide that has pictures to provide the child with visual clues to show what is going to happen and how the child is supposed to behave.

The event or activity is broken down into distinct steps that are often presented with a picture. One or two sentences are used to describe the task shown in the picture. Social stories are designed to be be used by parents and teachers to teach children with autism about a new environment. Using social stories can decrease anxiety, meltdowns, and aggressive behavior.

For example, this technique might be used to prepare a child for going to the doctor. Often children might not react well to the doctor wanting to look into their ears. The child might become very upset and have a meltdown or become aggressive. A parent might use a social story to show a child that the doctor will be using a special tool to look into his/her ears. The parent will explain that while the doctor is looking at the child’s ears, the child should sit still. A social story for this situation would have a picture of a child sitting still while the doctor looks into his or her ears.

A Sample Social Story on Running:

I like to run. It is fun to go fast. It’s okay to run when I am playing outside.

I can run when I am on the playground.

Sometimes I feel like running, but it is dangerous to run when I am inside.

Running inside could hurt me or other people.

When people are inside, they walk. Walking inside is safe.

I will try to walk inside and only run when I am outside on the playground.

My teachers and parents like it when I remember to walk inside.

Autism Center, University of Southern Florida

Social stories were first introduced by Carol Grey in 1990. She developed them while working as a teacher for children with autism.

Social stories can help to diffuse stress and unpredictability

Social stories can be written for children as young as preschool age. There are also social stories written to help older children, teens, and adults with topics such as how to react to a tragedy or how to understand the concept of a stereotype.

Parents and teachers can make their own social stories or find free stories on the internet. There are also social stories available for purchase.  Oftentimes, it is helpful to keep them in a binder for the child, and to review them frequently.

Another great  sample social story on safety can be seen by clicking here.

For more information on how to write and use social stories as well as free social stories, please go to:

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