This is Part 2 of a three-part series.
Remember Jacob? The 6-year-old boy who gets very upset when things don’t go his way? Jacob’s parents heard that social stories may help to teach him how to manage his behaviour when he is upset.
His parents found a story online about deep breathing, but they wanted to make the story just for Jacob. It was important to them that the images and words came from their experiences and culture. But they did not know how to write a social story. How do you even start?
Jacob’s parents are experts when it comes to their son, but if you are writing the story for someone else, be sure to get the parents to help you.
Get to know the child by answering the following questions;
- How old is the child?
- What are his/her needs?
- How long is his/her attention span?
- What are his/her interest? what motivates?
- What does the child need to understand?
This information will help you to write a story that is motivating and personalized, making it special and more effective!
The child might be missing information or misunderstanding the situation, so make sure to write in a clear and simple way. A story with a positive message and tone will go a long way in building understanding, confidence and self-esteem.
When picking pictures, choose ones that are clear and represent the meaning of the story. Use real pictures if you can and include elements that are tailored to the child.
Now let’s get writing!
Here are 8 steps to write a social story* with visual supports.
Put the target behaviour or skill in the title (i.e. “I follow the rules on the plane!”). Add a picture that represents the message, for example, a plane
On the next page, start with a general statement (i.e. “Sometimes, we need to leave our community by plane”). Add a picture to go with it.
Describe simply and clearly the situation or skill by including some information. This might be information about the ‘what’, ‘who’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘why’ and ‘how’. This will likely take several pages. Add a picture to each.
Include a part in which the child is likely to struggle. (i.e. “sometimes it feels bumpy on the plane, this is called turbulence”). Use words like “sometimes” and “usually” when something is uncertain. Add a picture for each page.
Make a separate page and image from the child’s perspective.
(i.e. “Sometimes I may feel a little nervous or scared”).
Describe what the client should do (i.e. “even when it gets exciting, I will walk and hold my mother’s hand”, instead of “I won’t run away”). Add a picture. Pictures of the child actually doing what he should do help to make expectations very clear.
Include sentences to guide the child (I.e. “When I feel nervous, I can hold my mom’s hand or squeeze my stuffed animal”). Add a picture.
Include an exact phrase that the child can say! (i.e. “Going on the plane is fun!”). Add a picture.
Finish with a positive message. (i.e. I follow the rules and have a great time on the plane!) Add a picture
Jacob’s parents sat down together to write the story fo their son. Here’s what they came up with:
It’s called “I can calm down with my belly breathing”. It’s 15 pages long.
- Sometimes things happen that are very frustrating
- Sometimes, my baby brother takes my toys
- Sometimes, I can’t watch my favourite TV show
- Sometimes, my parents tell me it’s time to go when I’m having fun
- This makes me feel so frustrated and angry
- My face gets hot and red, my heart beats fast
- When this happens, I do my belly breathing
- First, I inhale. I close my eyes and pretend I am smelling a beautiful flower through my nose
- I fill up my belly like a balloon
- Then, I exhale. I pretend I am blowing out the candles on my cake!
- I do this five times, once for every finger on my hand!
- Sometimes, I still feel upset. So I do it again for my other hand
- I can calm down with my belly breathing
- When I am calm, it makes it easier to talk
- My belly breathing is a superpower!
They finished the story by adding a picture for every page, including real pictures of Jacob, his baby brother and his favourite super hero; Iron man!
Putting together social stories can be fun! It will become easier with practice. Here are the 8 steps listed above, for you to print and save for easy reference:
Here is something that will make it even easier for you to do. Here is a fillable template for you make your own social story*.
There are several apps and online resources available that can help you to create your own digital social stories, which can be very helpful when a child is motivated by playing with your phone or tablet.
“Book Creator” allows you to make personalized digital stories using your own pictures and text. This is a good app if you prefer to have your story on a device. It will even read the story out loud!
The “Social Story Creator” app has an inventory of ready-to-go social stories that you can purchase for a small cost. Topics cover common problem behaviours, self-care, friendship & feelings. You can also create your own story in PDF format to print or share. Search for it in the app store on your device.
Once you have completed the social story* – congratulations!!
Now it’s time to share with your audience! But how?!
Take a look at this blog post to get some ideas on what to do next.