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Writing Effective Social Stories Is Easy

socialstorywriting350What are you to do when your child with ASD dances naked in front of company, gets anxious when they make a mistake or doesn’t wash his hands after going to the bathroom? Our suggestion: Read social stories. They can be very effective at teaching self-help, self-soothing and social skills. They can also help your child understand what’s expected and how her actions can make others feel.

So, whenever your child is struggling with something – be it turn-taking, nose-picking or being terrified of thunder – write a social story to help. It’s simple! Here are tips and examples to get you started:

Tips for writing social stories

1. Focus on one situation or skill, such as using a Kleenex, wearing appropriate clothes or keeping hands to oneself,  per story.

2. Write in first person (from your child’s perspective) using simple and positive language. To increase comprehension, include pictures that illustrate the story’s points and directions.

3. At the beginning, describe the situation from your child’s point of view. Tell exactly what happens, where and when it takes place, who’s there and how your child feels about it. Make sure the statements are judgement-free. For example: During recess, I like to run to the swing and push others off so that I can have a turn all recess long.

4. After describing the situation or behaviour with neutral language, tell how it may impact others emotionally or physically.  For example: When I push others off the swing, it makes them feel sad.  Sometimes when I push people off, it may hurt them and they will cry.  They don’t want to be my friend when I push them off the swing.

5. In the body of the story, give instructions on what your child should do or how they should behave. Make the expectations very clear and realistic.  For example: Instead, when I see someone else on the swing, I can stop and keep my hands to myself.  I can use my words to say, “Can I have a turn now?” or “Please, that’s my swing.”  Then I wait until that person gets off the swing for me to have a turn.  If the person does not get off, I can find a teacher and say, “Excuse me, can you tell _____ that I want a turn on the swing now?” Remember to include lots of affirmations such as I can do it! It’s okay to be scared and I’m a kind and smart boy.

6. End with a sentence or two that tells how following the aforementioned instructions will make Mommy and Daddy (or any other important people) happy and proud.  For example: When I keep my hands to myself and use my words to ask for a turn, it makes my teachers and my friends very proud of me.  The other kids will smile and remember that I am a kind friend.

Below are a few examples of the social stories we write and use with clients: Using a Kleenex, Clothing and Recess.

Illustration by iosphere at

Watch our YouTube Video on Do Social Stories Change Behaviour?