Prepare For Thanksgiving By Using Social Stories!
Thanksgiving traditions are different for every family. They can include football games, parades, copious amounts of food, and visiting or hosting family.
These changes in daily routine can be stressful for children with autism. Imagine if routine and predictability were important for you to understand your world. So how do we help children navigate this season? One strategy is to use Social Stories.
What is a social story?
The creator of social stories, Carol Gray, describes them as a “…social learning tool that supports the safe and meaningful exchange of information between parents, professionals, and people with autism of all ages.”
A social story is simply a story you create with words and images that shows your child how they should respond socially to specific situations or to anticipated problems. Social stories are used in ABA therapy to teach social norms, improve social skills, and reduce anxiety by making the social situation predictable.
Social stories can be created using paper and crafts, or they can be in a digital format, whichever is best and readily accessible for your child.
When creating a social story, keep in mind the skills of your child. Some social stories may have written language, pictures, or even videos. Picture cards can be created and placed on a binder ring to allow for smaller children to transport easily. Another option is to use a slide show or presentation software to create a social story on a tablet or cell phone. Applications for phones and tablets have even been developed specifically for social story creation.
Here are other important considerations for creating a social story:
- Be specific. Build a story around a specific situation and a specific goal behavior. For example, it’s Thanksgiving dinner and that means sitting at the table to eat.
- Make it interesting so it gets your child’s attention. Use pictures, icons,videos, and colors. Whatever they like and are able to understand.
- Narrate the story as if from your child’s point of view. “I’m going to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving.”
- Use simple steps in describing events and behavior expectations. Answer the basic where, when, who, what, how, and why questionsto develop your story.
- Stay positive! Use phrases describing what to DO, such as read a book,instead of what NOT TO DO. Positive language will encourage your child to follow the story as well as the behavior expectations.
Once you’ve created a story, review it repeatedly with your child. Practice the skills that are described in the story. If the goal is to sit at the table with everyone, start by reviewing the story with your child, then sitting at the table with the story. And don’t forget to take the story to Thanksgiving dinner!
The most important part of implementing social stories or any other strategy is to be aware of your child’s limits and abilities. Don’t expect perfection. No one’s perfect. Just allow your child the opportunity to enjoy the festivities in their own way as much as possible.
Written by Joe’L Farrar, M.Ed., CCC-SLP BCBA
Additional resources about social stories: