For those of you who have children with any behavior issues (Our angels?! Behaviors?! NEVER!) you may be familiar with Carol Gray’s social stories created for children with autism. The rest of you are saying, “What is a social story?”
There are various forms of social stories I use for children with Down syndrome. Some are to help with anxiety when transitioning (from the bus into school) or during specific routines (going to get a hair cut). Your child does not have to have autism to benefit from these. These personalized stories help with routines and transitions using photos, pictures, or words.
I’ve used social stories myself when Louis was 3 and putting up a fight every night going to bed. We had read Lama, Lama Red Pajama, too many times I think! The story I created was simple:
- I am getting ready for bed
- I put on my pj’s
- We read two books
- I say my prayers
- We sing, Good Night
- I get tucked in and give kisses
- I stay in bed all night and in the morning…
- I wake up and see Mommy and Daddy!
I had pictures from google images to help it look like a real ‘story book.’ I’ve also taken photos for this type of story too. Each page has one simple sentence that explains the routine. It really helped Louis (who was/is an anxious child) understand the routine and learn what was expected.
In clinic I typically take photos and add captions below them. Some examples of stories I’ve done include:
- Using safe hands.
- Going to bed.
- Staying safe when home alone. This is helpful when introducing teens to what can/can’t happen while you’re away.
I always emphasize the behavior I want to see, not eliminate. I’ve learned this the hard way with my son and children with Down syndrome. They like to ‘act out’ the stories, so be careful what you write. In addition, children with DS usually have difficulty understanding negatives. For some reason they interpret “not” as meaning – Go for it!
When I test for understanding of this concept I show a picture of 4 babies, three of whom are crying and say, “Point to the baby that is not crying.” Nine out of ten times the child points to all but the baby crying. This is important to understand when writing a story for a child with Down syndrome. For instance I would say, “I can shake hands when I meet a new person” instead of “I will not smack people on the butt.” (Yes, they will do it more. And at 3 it may be cute, but not at 13!)
I have families take pictures of the child in his/her routine and we write the ‘story’ together emphasizing again the desired behavior. The ideas for social stories are limitless. My mom took pictures of my brothers doing chores to help them learn the routine (and potentially complain less). Here’s one page from their story – Enjoy!: