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Social Stories

Individuals with autistic spectrum disorders often experience difficulty processing social information. Social difficulties frequently displayed in persons with autism may be related to their relative lack of ability to infer what another individual may think or feel. (lack of "theory of mind"). Misunderstanding of social cues by children with autism often results in difficulties interacting at home and at school. Social stories are short stories designed to improve communication and behavior in persons with autism, by presenting social situations in simple, concrete terms. Social stories typically include four types of sentences: The first type discusses a specific situation, describing what happens and why (descriptive sentence). Next, responses likely to be successful are outlined for the person (directive sentences). Thirdly, the perspective of other characters in the story is presented in attempts to develop the reader's insight (perspective sentences). Finally, the individual adds sentences which help reinforce the cues they have learned (control sentences). Two to five descriptive sentences should be used per each directive sentence.

Social stories may be written for individuals to help them deal with new experiences, or adjust to changes in environment or routine. A social story may also be written to coach a child concerning appropriate behaviors; or in attempts to stimulate their insight into other's feelings. The effect of social story use as a behavioral intervention is a topic of current interest in autism research. Results of recent studies indicate that social stories are indeed a useful tool for teaching appropriate social behavior in persons with autism.

The clinic/physician's office is one setting which may prove stressful for all children, particularly those with autism. Children or adults who struggle with communication and/or social skills may benefit from the use of a social story written to address a trip to the physician. Although social stories are most effective when written for a specific individual, commercially produced collections of social stories are available from various sources- including ones written by the originator of social stories, Carol Gray. Books by various other authors are also available. Such publications may be useful in the clinic/office setting when adapted to the individual user.

References

Adams, L., Aphroditi, G., VanLue, M., & Waldron, C. (2004). Social story intervention: Improving communication skills in a child with an autistic spectrum disorder. Focus on Autism and other Developmental Disabilities, 19(2), 87-94

Kuoch, H. and Mirenda, P. (2003). Social story interventions for young children with autistic spectrum disorders. Focus on Autism and other Developmental Disabilities, 18(4), 219-227

Scattone, D., Wilczynski, S.M., Edwards, R.P., & Rabian, B. (2002). Decreasing disruptive behaviors of children with autism using social stories. Journal of Autism and other Developmental Disorders, 32(6), 535-543