reflections related to disability advocacy, family and (needed) cultural change
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Try this Tuesday: Social Stories
This is a tool that we have used and used and used in our house to talk about anything and everything. A social story is a narrative that teaches expected behaviors in specified situations. It really is a powerful tool--for anyone. There is a lot of talk about these stories in the autism community, but their value goes beyond diagnosis.
The power of social stories is demonstrated everywhere--advertisers show you the skateboarder drinking a certain soft-drink. Now you know. That soft-drink is essential to being a cool skateboarder person. (And manufacturers would not invest in advertising at all if it didn't change behaviors!)
The power of social stories is, after all the reason that the disability community cares about the way people are treated in movies. We knew that the phrases used in Tropic Thunder would haunt our lives--and we were not wrong! And I know just how I will act when my queendom comes through because I have watched The Princess Diaries--all of them--several (thousand) times.
When we are trying to introduce a concept to my daughter we have found Social Stories incredibly valuable.
Sometimes I find the stories I need at a bookstore or at the library. The Berenstain Bears books are ALL social stories. They teach kids what to expect at the doctors, or dentist or at school. Many other books or movies will show behaviors we are interested in. There is great value in this because my daughter loves books and movies so the lessons offered there are very well received.
Sometimes though what we need isn't really available from other sources--so I make them.
I tried Social Stories out for the first time when my daughter was in 3rd grade. She was in chorus and right before the first concert they moved their rehearsals to the stage and my daughter flipped out. She would not go on the stage, she would not sing, she was a mess.
I sat with her and it turned out her biggest fear was that she was going to fall off the stage. The lights and noise in the cafetorium compounded this. I was wracking my brains for a way to build her some success. I decided to try a story.
My daughter and I sat at the computer and wrote a story about Singing in the Chorus. We made pages about all the things that would happen. We mentioned the kids that would be standing with her, the teacher, the accompanist, that if we stood with our friends we would not fall, that there would be a strange mix of lights and darkness, that there would be applause (and that meant good things.) We illustrated it with clipart.
We read it at bedtime and before school. She took it to school and she read it with one of her friends during the day (make sure the story will not embarrass your child if you decide to do this.) Her chorus teacher even took a few minutes out of his day to read it with her and then took her down to the stage to do a run-through.
The night of the concert we didn't really know what she was going to do, but she did it--no one who hadn't seen her meltdown 2 days before would ever have know that she had struggled at all.
We have written social stories over the years about appropriate bus behavior (couldn't find a book about not throwing your shoes on the bus for some reason!), about chores, about changing classes in school, becoming a teenager and more.
The stories can be simple or complex and can be totally individualized for your child's learning style, reading level, picture preferences and needs.
From toilet-training to being in a wedding, social stories are a great tool--try it out!
I am the mother of three, wife of one. I am a Partners in Policymaking graduate and a committed disability advocate. I want to catch up on my scrapbooking, learn more about art-journaling, get my house in order, read all the books I have set aside to read and change the world--not necessarily in that order. The opinions in this blog are my own and not those of any of employers.