Intro to Social Stories

Cute girl with mom reading a book

Back when Jen, Ariel and I were first talking about relaunching A Flexible Life and what type of content we’d like to create, a frequent topic of conversation was my experience working with the Autism community and some of the resources I used to have a hard time finding.  M was diagnosed a dozen years ago when there wasn’t nearly as much help available for families, and I spent a lot of time figuring things out through trial and error and the help of other parents.  One of our goals here at A Flexible Life is to put our skills to use to help provide some of those tools for other families.

One of the common tools I used with M was something called Social Stories.  I used them quite a bit to help my daughter understand what was expected of her in a variety of situations.  It was a tool introduced to me by her support staff back when she was two years old, and it worked well!  Her staff and I wrote them all the time to help M.  It was just something we did, and I imagine it’s something many families have done to help their kids too.

So exactly what is a Social Story?

A Social Story is a widely used tool in the Autism community, but few know a lot about their history or their guidelines.  Social Stories are used to provide guidance or directions about how to respond to different types of social situations.  Carol Gray developed Social Stories in 1990 and trademarked them.  The first Social Story was published back in 1993.

‘Social Stories’ has been routinely capitalized as a proper noun for several years to distinguish the ‘genuine’ Stories that meet all of the current defining criteria.   The word ‘Story’ or ‘Stories’ is also capitalized if used in reference to a genuine Social Story.  When ‘story’ or ‘social stories’ appears without capitalization, it means that the story or stories met the requirements of the definition at one time, but would not be considered a Social Story today.  I will not be capitalizing “Social Story(ies)” when referencing the stories we post here because while we will do our best to adhere to the guidelines, we are not professionals or experts; we are simply posting stories that I have written and used to help my child.  Every child with Autism or other developmental delays is different, and these may or may not work for you and your child, but my hope is that either they will, or they will give you a great starting point that you can customize to meet your and your child’s needs.

So, what are the guidelines for writing a Social Story?  They’re fairly simple.  However, specific adherence can sometimes be a little challenging.   As I said, I try to adhere to them, but when helping my daughter, I was also willing to be lax on the “rules” to meet her needs and hopefully help her to navigate the situation with the highest degree of success possible.  I would encourage you to do the same.  Follow the “rules” as best you can, but don’t forget to look at what is best for your child.

You can read through the guidelines as delineated by Vanderbilt Kennedy Center by downloading this PDF about Social Stories from their website.

Creating these stories from scratch can be time-consuming, and I often ended up with a mishmash of images styles and pictures I could find from the limited resources available.  Had the Internet been then what it is now, I imagine I would have been able to share the stories I created while borrowing stories others had created, rather than making everything from scratch.  Since one of the three of us is a skilled graphic designer, it seemed like a natural choice for Ariel and me to join forces to create great stories with beautiful, child-friendly images that were consistent and supported the story.

We will be posting a variety of stories for a variety of situations, so check back with us to see what’s new.  If you have a need for a story about an upcoming social situation, don’t hesitate to ask!  Many people have similar needs so we’ll see what we can do to accommodate those needs.  Not every need can be specifically addressed, but you never know until you ask!

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