Using Autism Social Stories | MyCareSpace

Top Tips for Writing a Social Story for your Autistic Child

Mother and children sitting on floor writing a social story

Social stories (™ Carol Gray 1990) provide a visual representation of a social situation and the appropriate behavior in that situation.

By reading and discussing the social story, the autistic child can gain a better understanding of the situation and what is expected of them. This can help reduce anxiety and improve social interaction and communication skills.

Tips for writing a successful autism social story

  1. Check the person’s communication ability: It’s really important to know how much someone understands before you write a story for them.
  2. Keep it simple: Social stories should be written in a clear and concise manner, using simple language that is easy to understand. Avoid using complex language or technical terms that may be difficult for the individual to understand. Simple white backgrounds help to eliminate other visual distractions and put the foucs on the photos and text.
  3. Focus on one event at a time: Only write about one topic per social story. You do not want to overwhelm your child. So pick one topic, such as visiting the dentist, for your social story and write only about that particular topic.
  4. Use pictures to support the text: Photos or illustrations can greatly enhance the effectiveness of a social story. Visual aids can help the individual understand the situation and the expected behavior more easily. Tip: include photos of the environment and real people in your story where possible - this will make it more relatable.
  5. Include the actual words or phrases the child needs to say: E.g. include what a child should say (i.e., "Trick or treat!") when at a house so that the child can repeat that exact phrase correctly while actually trick-or-treating.

    Social stories should include 2-5 descriptive or perspective sentences for each directive sentence. Social stories written in this manner have been found to be more successful.

  6. Answer the 'WH' questions: Social stories should always include descriptive sentences, which answer the WH questions like when, who, what, where, why, and how.
  7. Involve the person: Social Stories are most successful when the person themselves is involved in the process. Ask them what colour they want the front cover to be and what photos they would like for the book. It’s also good to check the story over with the person before producing the final version.
  8. Describe how the child or others should react or feel: Social stories should also describe how the child should feel or react to the certain event or skill.
    Example: It is okay for me to cry at a funeral.
  9. Write the social story in the first person and the present tense: Write it from the perspective of the child. It will help them relate to the story!
  10. The language should always focus on the positive: The social stories should focus on what the child should or can do and not on what the child can or cannot do. Reword any negative or unexpected behaviors as positively as you can.
  11. Revise and Rework: Once the story is written, it is important to review and revise it as needed. This may involve getting feedback from the individual with autism, or from others who know them well. Revisions should be made based on the individual's specific needs and goals, and should aim to make the story as clear and effective as possible.
  12. Support the person to read the story and practice the strategies: Success with Social Stories happens with consistency and support. Have the story available to the person throughout the day and refer to it. Talk about the strategies and reinforce the positive messages.

Find out more about writing social stories

Read our comprehensive resource titled What are Autism Social Stories and how can I use them to support my autistic child? plus some free templates to help get you started.


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