Social Stories and Carol Gray Part 1

Wow it’s amazing how busy ‘life’ can be.  I’ve seriously gotten a TON of information from this workshop and our mandatory parent workshops after school.  So, some info from Carol Gray:

The main goal with a social story isn’t to change behavior!  It’s a two-step discord – to provide understanding of the audience in relationship to a situation or skill and/or to identify specific topics and the focus of the story.  A big “AHA” for me was that because an autistic individual ‘sees’ the world differently, it isn’t right to give directions and say, ‘this is how it will be.’  Same as teaching a man to fish versus giving them a fish.  The important idea is to help the individual see a different way of looking at things and helping them understand in a way that best suits them.

There were  a few books that she recommended as ‘good reads’ and here they are:

OK honestly, when I first heard about social stories, I thought, “that’s easy and such a simple concept.”  The concept is very simple yet it is very powerful since autistic individuals think ‘in pictures.’  However, as I listened to the thought process behind every picture in a social story, I realized that there’s so much that you have to consider when writing a story.  Thus, and I can see the logic behind this, it is important to get your social stories from trusted and correct sources – look for a trademark symbol!

A few things to remember: A social story is:

1) in the first or third person – NO SECOND PERSON STATEMENTS

2) Positive and Patient

3) Past, present, or future tense – whichever is most relevant

4) Literally accurate and

5) has an accurate meaning

My wife and I have written short stories for our boys and here are some of the general guidelines that I took from the session.  I’ll be honest, I think I can put together a decent social story for my boys with 80% accuracy.  However, the thought behind the final 20% and the attention to details is where I’d miss things.  Here’s an example.

Example #1: “Directions help students work, learn, and play together.  Directions help to keep students safe too!”

Example #2: “A student may want to do something else.  That student may not follow the directions.  Instead, that student will do what he or she wants to do.  I do that a lot”

In the situation above, the second example is too lengthy and also, has self-depreciating statements.  Most autistic individuals already struggle with self esteem issues so you need to avoid these at all times.

Example #1: There are times when you should listen to adults and follow their directions

Example #2: Sometimes, teachers, or other school staff, tell students what to do.  They give students directions

The first statement assumes that the individual understands what ‘giving directions’ means.  It also gives the individual an ‘out’ with directions by saying that a student ‘should’ follow directions.  You are walking a fine line here because you want the individual to understand the importance of following directions but what happens when it’s an adult that is not a trustworthy source?  A stranger?  AN AUTISTIC INDIVIDUAL WILL TAKE THE DIRECTION LITERALLY.

These are the subtle nuances that I know I would miss!  Thus, I really intend this post as an overview to help with social stories, to recognize good versus mediocre stories, and a push for you to support Carol because I really feel she knows what she is talking about.

So, continuing on with the lesson:

Example #1: There are two parts to a direction.  The first is giving the direction.  Teachers often do that.  The second is following the direction.  That’s a students’ job.

Example #2: I am going to listen to my teacher.  I will follow her directions.  I will do what the school staff tell me to do, too.  It’s my job.

Again, example #2 borders on socially unsafe.  What if the staff member is unsafe?  Or a person posing as a staff member?  Man, there’s so much to think about!

Now, she combined it all to form a social story

“Learning About Directions at School”

Sometimes, students are given directions at school.  A teacher, or other school staff, tell the students what to do.  Directions help students work, learn, and play together.  Directions help keep students safe, too.  There are two parts to a direction.  The first is giving the direction.  Teachers often do that.  The second is following the direction.  That’s the student’s job.  I am learning about directions at school.

This story is a better social story.  The story gives some flexibility about following all directions since some may be unsafe or incorrect.  It also helps the student understand their part in this and what they can do to better ‘own’ this skill.

I’ll do another post on something I really think will help my boys, Comic Strip Conversations.  That’ll be the next post but I hope this gives you a VERY BASIC overview as to the thought process and patterns for a social story.  Let’s be honest, I put an entire day of training into a 800 word post so please realize that there’s more to it than this but I hope this gives you a brief overview of things to think about when creating a social story of your own, or what you need to look for in a ‘proper’ social story.  Again, look for Carol Gray and Trademark Material when looking at things online.

Enjoy the picture ~ preview of some future posts.  🙂

Goblin Valley

Coming Soon


  1. nanayane said:

    I’m working on social stories with my grandson to cope with changes in scheduled activities, he is VERY scheduled and I am becoming the same way trying to keep his world on an even keel…He has been having some real problems sleeping and with his health so he’s been very tired, grouchy and wheezy…school has become rather complicated…we’re coping though…course now he’s got many of the social stories memorized… 🙂

    We also do flip books for activities that become difficult I.E the park…love the park…can’t leave the park…also shopping (ugh the insanity) look with our eyes not our hands, look at what is on the list first, then look at fun things…maybe buy a fun thing maybe not (that’s the hardest part, the not) then there’s helping unload the bags when we get home…still waiting for this to happen…lol…perhaps some day!

    • Sounds busy! I hear you on the ‘maybe not’ being the hardest part . . . . .

  2. Click This Link said:

    Hi-ya, nice webpage you’ve gotten there.

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