"Social stories" coach kids through transitions and new situations
Most kids learn about appropriate behavior and responses "by osmosis" -- they observe and respond to the subtle social cues around them, or they recall how they acted in a similar situation. For kids on the autistic spectrum, however, both picking up nonverbal information and then generalizing it to new situations are very difficult.
Social Stories are a tool developed by Carol Gray to give autistic kids a way to preview and practice new or challenging situations. One writes a specifically-formatted "story" about the situation to share with the child, so he knows what to expect and how to act. This simple tool can help any child who is anxious about change.
My 3.5yo is high-functioning autistic and we've been using Social Stories for her with great success.
From the Carol Gray website: "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."
One thing I had not expected was that my neurotypical 5yo daughter would also respond really well to the Social Story format. Most children love a story, even more so a story that features them and their picture in the story. I've found it keeps both my girls attention for longer and they remember the story better. New things - going to the dentist, starting school and any time of transition or change can be tackled with a Social Story.
We all appreciate knowing how something will work in advance and what to do if things are not going how we thought they would. It is so simple to put together a story especially with digital cameras and images from Google or Flickr and really worth the payoff of making transitions easier for everyone.
Be sure to drop by Marita's blog -- she has posted some example stories there.
We often use an abbreviated version with our kids: an index card with a bulleted list of reminders for a situation that's familiar, but new enough that some coaching is in order.
If any of you have experience with Social Stories, either the "official" version or your own interpretation, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.