A social story has specific characteristics – the most important of which are four basic sentence types and a ratio that defines their frequency. Also important is the way the sentences are written.
Carol Gray (who developed Social Stories) recommends that five descriptive or perspective sentences should be used to each directive sentence. In some cases, directive sentences may not be necessary.
- Are truthful and free of opinion and assumption.
- Identify the most important aspects and the "backbone" of a story.
- Often contain answers to important "wh" questions.
- An example of a descriptive sentence is “I need to go to the doctors when I am ill.”
- Recognise how the person feels, and fundamental information about what others are thinking and feeling, and what their motivations are. E.g. ‘Everyone has difficulties with waiting sometimes’.
- Refer to, or describe, someone’s internal state.
- Can present others’ reactions to a situation so that the individual can learn how others’ perceive various events. For example, “The fire alarm does not bother all people.”
- State, in positive terms, what the preferred outcome is.
- Suggest responses to a situation or concept, giving some direction as to what to do or say.
- Often begin with “I can try…” “I will try…” or “I will work on….”. For example, “I will try to remember to take my coat when I go out.”
- Reinforce the message as a good idea, a rule, or a reassuring thing often by expressing a commonly shared value or opinion
3 steps to writing a social story
Step 1 - Target a situation – identify and describe the situation
- What is the goal of your social story?
- What are you trying to achieve?
- What is the most important thing to be understood to achieve this?
Step 2 - Gather information
- Where does the situation occur?
- Who is involved?
- How long does it last?
- What happens during the situation?
- How does it begin?
- How does it end?
- Are there any words, that could create anxiety or distress, that I need to avoid?
- Could pictures or symbols be helpful to support understanding?
- Are words like; “sometimes”, “often”, and “usually” needed to show the outcome is not guaranteed?
Step 3 - Write and share the story
- Create a title, introduction, body, and conclusion.
- Use a supportive tone in your writing.
- Consider how to present the story to the individual.
- Keep the interaction casual and relaxed.
- Take feedback if it is given.
- Keep using the story at appropriate times.
- Revise the story based on the person’s responses.