Apr 12

There's Nothing Like a Good...Social Story

Posted by Pamela M. Jones in Fair Is Not Equal on Apr 12, 2013

For many of us, getting through our days without major incident is a common occurrence. We know when and how to manage moments of frustration and anger and if we need help, we know how to advocate for ourselves. In short, much like a computer is programmed with routines and subroutines to perform key functions, we too have similar internal “scripts” that spur us on to complete tasks and engage in prosocial behaviors.

For many of our students, however, these facilitative scripts are missing and the result ranges from mild misunderstandings at one end of the spectrum to meltdowns, blow-ups, and strife at the other.

In our teaching practice, we've found that an effective tool to help our students grow in areas where skills are lagging is the social story. Created by Carol Gray, these stories (or, "scripts") provide students with the language and information they need to begin to grow their skills and change their perspective.

Take “Andrew,” for example. A 9th grader with an IEP that noted expressive language delays & behavior problems, Andrew was a mild-mannered high school student whose go-to words when asked to write, read, or do math were, “I can't.” He'd say these words calmly, and in a soft tone of voice but nonetheless, he persisted in his “I can't” stance. What might have helped him begin to consider to take the occasional academic risk is the social story.

A group of students enrolled in one of our courses designed a full-fledged intervention plan for Andrew, and they decided to craft the following social story as one part of this multi-pronged plan:

At my school, students seek out help before they say, 'I can't.'

Work may be hard at first glance.

First, I give it my best try by using strategies I already know and resources in the room.

Next, if I'm still struggling, I politely ask a nearby classmate for help and I try again.

If I'm still stuck, I raise my hand and tell the teacher, 'I am having trouble with...'

Pushing through difficult work can be challenging, but I will feel proud when I know I have tried my hardest.

My students noted that this social story gives Andrew “strategies…to make use of, strategies that address both his executive functioning difficulties as well as his expressive language difficulties.”  I agree with their assertion that as one part of a multi-pronged intervention plan, this social story could help Andrew approach his academic tasks differently. Given that Andrew likes to take part in artistic activities, it might be a good idea for him to illustrate his story--perhaps in a graphic novel format. 

What do you think of this social story?  Have you read about or used them in your practice?  If you want to read more about them, click here.

We’re looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

tagged behavioral intervention, scripts, social story
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