Social Stories ™ were originally designed by Carol Gray and are short, personalised descriptions, scenarios or narratives that are developed to teach social skills. They were originally designed for students with autism but are widely used for children with a range of disabilities. They have been so successful that they are trademarked by the Gray Center. They are usually written in the first person, present tense in a simple and direct manner. Social Stories ™ are typically utilised to explicitly teach social skills and routines. There are numerous free online versions that are easily adapted for children/ students although the Gray Center warns against utilising Social Stories ™ that fail to meet their guidelines that can be found at http://socialincites.com/blog/carol-grays-social-storiestm.
Many teachers write their own Social Stories ™ as they can be made quickly and easily. The first step is to make an assessment of the child/ student’s needs. Once this is determined then the text is written in a computer program, graphics or photos are often added and then it is laminated and bound. It is a visual, permanent resource that can be utilised over and over. The ease of making social stories is a key factor in the wide spread appeal of their use in the school context. Teachers read the social story to or with the child/ student at least three times, or on a regular basis with the aim of teaching a situation, skill or concept.
Educators should know and understand the theoretical explanation behind strategies used in the classroom. A starting point is the Macquarie University Special Education Centre (MUSEC) Briefings that analyse existing research on interventions in special education and provide a summation of their verdict. Here is the link:
According to MUSEC Briefing 12 there is limited theoretical explanation for the reputed efficacy of Social Stories ™ and the research itself is quite limited. It is difficult to establish the effects of social stories from other well- validated interventions that are utilised concurrently with children/ students. The verdict is to use with caution.
As a special educator I rely heavily on social stories and also a variant on the social story called Video Self Modelling or Video Peer Modelling. In essence these are social stories in video format. Should I continue to use strategies within my classroom that are not scientifically validated? I believe these strategies provide benefit to my students and other anecdotal evidence supports my viewpoint. Consequently I will continue to use these strategies but will be careful regarding making claims to others regarding the efficacy of the strategy in supporting the development of social skills. At worst these Social Stories ™ provide interesting reading material for my students, at best they are an effective adjunct in developing valuable skills.