Social Stories: A Beautiful Tool


Social Stories: A Beautiful Tool

By Hallie Bulkin

As my pediatric caseload has recently blossomed, I have found myself in conversations with many parents about social stories. Parents want to know what they are and how and when to use social stories. So the focus here is to bring awareness to the topic of social stories and answer some common questions shared by parents.

Q: “What is a social story?”

Carol Grey defines a social story as a story that “describes a situation, skill, or concept in terms of relevant social cues, perspectives, and common responses in a specifically defined style and format.” For example, you might list out the steps of what is going to happen first, next and last. You may also write examples of the kind of language or communication that can successfully be used in the given scenario.

Q: “How can a social story help my child?”

A social story may be useful to your child as  “the goal of a social story is to share accurate social information in a patient and reassuring manner that is easily understood by its audience. (Carol Grey)” Furthermore, it is not to alter the behavior of the individual the story is being written for, rather it is to be used to ease understanding of a social situation and lead to a more socially acceptable or positive outcome.

Q: “Who do you typically use social stories with?”

Social stories were originally created for use with children diagnosed with Autism. I personally find them to be a very useful tool for many children on my caseload. For example, I use them with children with anxiety, selective mutism, children lacking social skills (but not diagnosed as Autistic), and even some of my speech and language delayed children that cannot yet communicate their wants and needs effectively.

Q: “Can you give me an example of when a social story might be used?”

One of my favorite examples that ANY parent can relate to is going to the dentist, maybe because so many of you dread it yourselves! Children who dislike going to the dentist, have often associated something negative with that experience (could be the sound of the dental tools, laying down in the chair and feeling out of control, having a light shined in their face, etc.). This can cause anxiety or other negative emotions when the child is alerted to the fact that they are going to the undesired place (the dentist, in this example).

As adults, we may not like going to the dentist but we typically know what to expect and/or can ask our questions and have our minds put at ease. Some children cannot do this and this is where a social story comes in handy. Social stories can help to prepare a child for any situation that appears to be difficult for them. It helps them understand how to communicate what they are feeling in a more socially appropriate way with the goal of leading to a more successful visit to the dentist and less anxiety felt by all!

Social stories can be used for any situation, including, but not limited to: Going to a birthday party, playing with friends, asking a friend for a toy, listening to the teacher, walking in the hall at school, going to the grocery store, brushing your teeth, taking a bath, wearing pajamas to sleep, getting a haircut, wearing a winter coat, etc. The sky is the limit here.

Can you think of a situation in which your child struggles? Do you think a social story would help? Feel free to comment below and I will be happy to make suggestions on how to create a social story for your particular situation.


With Love,

Hallie Bulkin


Note: This post was first published on on January 13, 2014.




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