Autism and Social Stories

Autism and Social Stories: A social story is a short story that describes a situation or social skill.

Social Stories use a contextual system that is meaningful; they are used mostly for school-aged children with autism and Asperger's syndrome

Social Stories were developed by Carol Gray back in 1991, after years of working with children with autism and Asperger's syndrome.

Social stories are useful in addressing a large number of social skills. They are generally written by a speech pathologist, teacher or educational psychologist. The stories provide important information to a person with autism, which he/she can use in situations that may cause difficulty through a lack of social awareness.

In educational settings, Social Stories can be used to describe a classroom routine, including variations to that routine. An example could be the description of class rules in regard to asking the teacher for information in an appropriate manner. The stories should always be written with a positive angle on an individual's behaviour.

Social stories are also useful in acknowledging achievement. They can be used to create a permanent record of what a child does well. This ensures the student has an encouraging record of what they have achieved, which is important in building positive self-esteem in students with ASD.

There are four basic sentence types used in Social Stories: descriptive, perspective, affirmative, and directive. Each has a specific role. Less frequently used are partial sentences.

Descriptive Sentences: truthful, opinion and assumption free. Descriptive sentences are required in all Social Stories and are the most frequently used.

Perspective Sentences: Describes internal states, feelings and beliefs. Perspective sentences most frequently refers to the internal status of other people.

Directive Sentences: Suggests a response or choice of responses, and gently directs the behaviour of the person with Autism. It must allow room for error. For instance, 'I will try to.... I will work on.... one thing I could try to say,' etc.

Affirmative Sentences: The role of an affirmative statement is to stress an important point or refer to a law or rule. Usually follows on after a descriptive, perspective or directive sentence.

Partial Sentences: Asks the student to make guesses regarding the next step in a situation. For instance, 'my teacher will probably feel_________ if I raise my hand quietly when I want to ask a question.'

Autism and Social Stories cont...

The Basic Social Story Ratio

A Social Story has a ratio of 2 to 5 descriptive sentences for every directive sentence. For example, a story could begin with seven descriptive sentences and close with two directive sentences.

Additional Sentence Types

Control Sentences: Are written by the person with Autism to identify personal strategies to use to recall and apply information.

Cooperative Sentences: Identifies what others will do to assist the student. For instance, 'my mum and dad and teachers will help me as I learn to get on better with my classmates.

Autism and Social Stories cont...

The Social Story Guidelines

Step I: Picture the Goal. Describe more than direct. Share relevant social information in a meaningful way. This means adapting abstract concepts and ideas into meaningful pictures and text.

Step 2: Gather Information. Once a clear picture of the goal is created, it's essential to collect the necessary information. Information such as where and when the event occurs, who is involved, how events are sequenced, what occurs and why.

Step 3: Tailor the Text

a) The Social Story has an introduction, body and conclusion

b) Answers 'wh' questions. Who is involved, where and when it occurs, what is happening, how it happens, and why?

c) Mostly first person perspective

d) Positive language

e) Must contain 4 types of sentences (descriptive, perspective, affirmative, and directive) as outlined in the Basic story ratio.

f) Social story needs to be literally accurate. Also use insurance policy words like 'usually' and 'sometimes' to ensure accuracy.

g) May use alternative vocabulary to maintain its relaxed and positive quality.

Step 4: Teach with the Title. The title of a Social Story may be stated as a question, with the story answering the question.

Introducing a Social Story

The Social Story is introduced to the student with Autism in a relaxed manner and setting. Honesty is the most important element when a Social Story is initially introduced. For instance, 'I wrote this story for you...' and/or 'I have a story about what to do when you feel angry....Let's read it together.'

Autism and Social Stories cont...

Social Stories have had numerous research studies conducted on them in recent years. The results are very encouraging.

The studies indicate that Social Stories are effective at increasing understanding of social rules and social language skills of school-age children with autism and Asperger's syndrome. Tony Attwood (2007)

Return from Autism and Social Stories to Autism Behavior

Return from Autism and Social Stories to Asperger's Syndrome


Gray, C. (2000) The New Social Story Book: Illustrated Edition Future Horizons

O'Reilly, B. & Smith, S. (2008) Australian Autism Handbook. The essential resource guide for autism spectrum disorders, Jane Curry Publishing

Content Updated 7/11

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