Social Storytelling

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Social stories are designed to provide personal preparation for a challenging situation.

Written By Jess Urcuyo

2014-9-29-social-storytellingWhat really gets your social nerves a-fluttering? What about landing the final interview for your dream job? Flying by yourself to an exotic travel destination where you don’t speak the language? Going to your significant other’s work Holiday party?

What do we do in those situations? We research interview preparation advice, we review travel blogs to read up on the local culture, we practice our elevator pitch to answer the inevitable “so, what do you do?” question. We plan for what we expect to happen and we prepare for the unexpected. It’s a story we tell ourselves where we are the main character. We tell and retell ourselves the story until we think we’ve captured all potential situations that might happen. We rehearse our story until we’re comfortable that we’ll be successful.

That’s a social story. Almost…

Social stories are a technique created by Carol Gray, Director of The Gray Centre for Social Learning and Understanding in Grandville, Michigan in the early 90’s. The technique was first used with children with autism, but the approach has since been found to be successful across the lifespan and with many other diagnoses, as well as individuals who don’t have a diagnosis.

Social stories are designed to provide personal preparation for a challenging situation. Typically written in the first person, present tense, social stories are a script for appropriate behaviour and assist in understanding the perspective of others. Social stories are often a combination of pictures and sentences at the appropriate level of complexity for the individual.

Social stories are used by therapists, teachers, and parents alike to work through social challenges from dealing with fire drills, to accepting losing a game, sharing toys, or even understanding why it’s important to make eye contact.

Read a social story (PDF) that was used to help Emma overcome her debilitating fear of dogs.

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