Children with Disabilities

Social Stories

Adult and child reading together.

Some young children have difficulties attending to, processing, and understanding information in busy early learning environments. Social interactions can be especially fast paced and unpredictable for a young child with social and emotional or language delays.

There are many evidence-based practices that can be used to help young children attend to, learn about, and use positive skills and behaviors that will help them navigate social situations. The Social Story™ is an example of an individualized practice to support social and emotional learning.

Why should I use a social story?

Using a social story can help reduce a child’s anxiety during a new or difficult social situation and increase independence. Social stories clearly describe important parts of a social activity or event, including what might happen, how the child might feel, how others might feel or respond, and appropriate behavior expectations. This can increase the child’s understanding of the social situation and help them learn a positive skill or behavior to use.

How do I create or personalize a social story?

Anyone can create a social story! To be effective, there must be a plan to create an individualized story, use the story with the child, and monitor how they respond. 

First, identify the important aspects of a social situation, including what the child might not understand and how they can successfully navigate the event or activity. Then, write the story from the child’s point of view. Include simple facts about the situation, expected behaviors to use, and clear examples of what the child can do.

You can also download, customize, and print one of the existing stories for immediate use!

To personalize the stories provided:

  • Decide which social story best matches the needs of the child.
  • Downloadthe zip pack to access and open the Word version.
  • Individualize the story:
    • Electronically in Word:
      • Change or add text, photos, and other images — a photo of the child is a great way to individualize!
      • Print the story to use with the child.
      • Remember to save any changes to the social story on your computer so you can access it in the future.
    • By hand:
      • Print the story.
      • Handwrite information on the lines provided.

How do I use a social story?

Ideally, social stories should be read prior to the target social situation. Plan to use the social story often with the child to help them learn and understand the key social skills and behaviors.

When you read the story to the child, maximize their attention and engagement. Read it in an area where the child feels comfortable and can focus. Allow them to hold the story and read along with you if that increases their engagement and attention to the story. Keep the story somewhere the child can easily access it, so they can read it whenever they’d like to.

After you read the social story, discuss the key concepts with the child to make sure they understand. Consider using role plays or puppets to give the child an opportunity to practice the target skill or behavior before they need to use it in the social situation.

As you use a social story with the child, collect data on their learning. Observe how often or how well they use the target skill. Use this information to help you determine if the social story is effective in helping the child learn the new skill and to determine your next steps.