Stories About Social Stories

Stories About Social Stories
Using visual imagery has always been an easier way for me to communicate. I often explain psychological concepts in counselling using analogy and metaphor, such as energy feeling like a rollercoaster, or emotions being like a balloon filling with water. This is particularly useful with children, as they don’t tend to talk about their problems, they act on them.

As many adults know, children can be incredibly resistant to discussion of ‘problems’ where they are the starring character. This is where story telling can play a wonderful role in improving the way adults communicate to children. I use stories in play and personalised Social Stories for a range of children and young people with and without disabilities where traditional ‘talk therapy’ isn’t appropriate.

Communicating using story telling has been useful for my practice in three ways:

1. Clear rules are developed and communicated to the child and parent,

2. Parents learn and start helping the child generalise the story by using consistent language with their child, and

3. What I am teaching the child and parents in sessions can travel home with them.

Carol Gray, a teacher, developed the concept of ‘Social Stories’ in 1991 for use with children with autism. A Social Story is a short, simple story that provides information about a social situation and the appropriate behaviors needed for that situation. It can also be defined as short descriptions of real life situations that help someone understand what they might expect from a specific situation or event, or how to better interpret the circumstances surrounding something they may be experiencing.

Other picture-based approaches commonly used by psychologists include the Picture Exchange Communication System, and Comic Strip Conversations. All approaches have mixed evidence for their effectiveness for autism. This means that there is evidence for their effectiveness, but researchers are still working on figuring out exactly what parts are most effective, and to what extent.

I make social stories on the fly in sessions using Comic Strip Conversations, and formally, using high quality images and tools. Below is a sample from a longer Social Story that were developed for children on the autism spectrum that had difficulty with rigidity around rules.

social-story-rulessoccer social story 1 of 2screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-10-14-10-pm

These documents were developed after a period of time where I get to know a client’s skills and their family. I used a mixture of tools such as ShowMe images and comic making software, which were then placed into a word document with text. You can see that I have clearly communicated specific language that the child and parent can learn and use. The child’s parents can now respond to situations where the child is having trouble being flexible with rules, by communicating the right type of law, rule, or guideline that applies.

Parents and teachers who want to use Social Stories would benefit from considering:

– The child’s reading comprehension skills and interest in visual content,

– The complexity of the information needed,

– To what extent the child thinks rigidly (black and white) or in a concrete (over-simplified) manner,

– The most important concepts they would like to communicate,

– Time limitations, and

– The quality, flexibility of use, and licensing of the images they are using.

Holly is a registered psychologist. She is available for appointments at Brave HQ Clayton Monday to Thursday 10-6pm.

References and further reading:


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