Monday, May 23, 2011

Social Success with Social Stories

Last week Abby and I had the pleasure of attending an autism conference with a number of very talented and interesting speakers. In the next few posts we hope to update our readers on some of the things we learned there!

Some of you may have heard of Carol Gray. She is the founder of Social Stories and President of The Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding ( She was one of the conference speakers last Friday and it was very enlightening to hear her perspective.

The Definition of A Social Story, according to The Gray Center, is:
Gray's Latest Social Story Book 

"A Social Story™ describes a situation, skill, or concept in terms of relevant social cues, perspectives, and common responses in a specifically defined style and format."

 "The goal of a Social Story™ is to share accurate social information in a patient and reassuring manner that is easily understood by its audience. Half of all Social Stories™ developed should affirm something that an individual does well."

 "Although the goal of a Story™ should never be to change the individual’s behavior, that individual’s improved understanding of events and expectations may lead to more effective responses."

I wanted to write out Carol Gray's definition of a Social Story because so many people out on the internet and even people publishing information use the term very loosely and probably are not using Social Stories in the way that Gray intended.

During her presentation, Carol Gray stressed the importance of writing social stories in the context of the situation if at all possible and providing the most basic information first, and then adding more specifics if necessary. The goal is not to overwhelm the individual with unnecessary wordiness. Also it is very important to use less definitive terms, such as "I will try," sometimes," or "usually" because there are always exceptions to the rules and as we know, our rule-followers may take the language quite literally and it could wind up backfiring on us!

The beauty of Social Stories is that anyone can write one and Gray pointed out that they compliment any intervention strategy you may be using. Gray's book "The New Social Story Book" (shown above) provides many examples of common social situations and pre-written stories. By reading these stories you may also get more of an idea of how they're written so you can begin writing your own based on specific difficulties of your child, student, or client.

NOT a social story, just a funny comic! We'll talk about Gray's Comic Strip Conversation Strategies soon though!

One question that people often have about Social Stories is when is it appropriate to use them with individuals (what age or level of understanding)? 

Although some Social Stories have been shown to work for young children who are not yet reading, they are typically intended for individuals who can read the stories for themselves. Having said that, however, Gray suggested that if you write a Social Story for a more beginning learner and for someone who is not yet reading a lot, then it's important to provide a general picture that depicts the concept you are trying to teach. A lot of times teachers and other professionals (myself included) have added several pictures to encapsulates several of the words, but this strategy can be very visually overwhelming to individuals and the person may focus on an irrelevant detail so she cautions us to keep it simple and again, to include one general picture rather than several specific ones.

Also, it's important to note that as individuals get older, they may start to view Social Stories as more juvenile, and therefore, you can use "Social Articles" and "Comic Strip Conversations," but we'll save those for another post! In the meantime, check out The Social Story website and Carol Gray's new book for lots of ideas and examples!

- Molly


  1. I have this book and the CD that comes with it. It's been a life saver in teaching my son the basics of some situations and behaviors. The CD is great in that I can adapt stories to reflect our situation and add own pictures. I cannot say enough how effective these stories are.

  2. I got this from a TEACCH workshop, actually, works well in my class. I would say it's great. Yes. But much more effective if they can read it themselves.

  3. Thanks for the comments! I agree, social stories can be extremely helpful and are much more effective if the person can read and understand the information for him/herself. I didn't realize you can edit the social stories from the CD provided in the book either, how wonderful!