October 6, 2022

Using Social Stories to aid a child’s development

By Sue Desmond, Play Specialist

Do you have a child that struggles understanding social conventions? Does teaching them new skills seem to be problematic? Then maybe you need a social story in your life!

What is a social story?

Social stories are a great way to teach children about a variety of skills and behaviours, as well as describing a special event or social situations. Basically, it’s a story that teaches about one specific topic, event, or social skill and why.

What are social stories for? 

Social stories can be used to:

  • develop self-care skills (e.g. how to clean teeth, wash hands or get dressed), social skills (e.g. sharing, asking for help, saying thank you, interrupting) and academic skills (probably used more in the school setting)
  • help children to understand how others might behave or respond in a particular situation
  • help children understand a person’s disability and why they may respond or behave in a particular way
  • help a person to cope with changes to routine and unexpected or distressing events (eg, absence of teacher, moving house, thunderstorms)
  • provide positive feedback to a person about an area of strength or achievement to assist in building self-esteem
  • as a behavioural strategy (for example, what to do when)

Social stories present information in a literal, ‘concrete’ way, that may help improve a person’s understanding of a previously difficult or ambiguous situation or activity. The way it’s presented and the language within the content can be adapted to meet different children’s needs. They can help with sequencing (what comes next in a series of activities e.g. a day out with the family) and ‘executive functioning’ (planning and organising e.g. steps that help me get ready for school).

By providing information about what might happen in a particular situation, and some guidelines for behaviour in that situation, you can increase structure and routine in the child’s life and thereby reduce anxiety that surrounds a task or unknown expectations around an event.

There are many pre-written stories online, for example from And Next Comes L.

However, if you are dealing with a more complex problem or you can’t find anything that is at the level of your child you can always write your own, making it more personal and addressing the issues you are dealing with more directly.

Adding a visual prompt strip that the child can the access if they are struggling can also help remind them when practicing the situation can also be helpful.