My Social Stories Book by Carol Gray is a valuable resource for families and teachers of children with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
It is organized into story sets, which approach areas of difficulty for a child with the social and cognitive differences typical of Autism.
All of us owe a debt of gratitude to Carol for discovering how powerful story telling can be to help prepare children with
Autism to deal with new situations and to understand conventions that neuro-typical children readily take in stride.
The book is divided into three chapters: The first is “Taking Care of Me” and focuses on routine self-care tasks, such as dressing, bathing and sleeping. The second is “Home,” with stories about noises, friends, visitors, and family. The last is “Going Places” which contains stories to help children deal with shopping, restaurants, and the challenges that go with acting appropriately, including lots of stories about expressions that the literally minded child on the spectrum would find unfathomable, like what does it mean when the restaurant “runs out” of your favorite food?
Things we take for granted are often puzzling to children on the Autism Spectrum, who really can’t see the Wizard behind the curtain. These stories will help parents prepare a child for new and difficult situation. A friend coming over for playdate? There’s a story to help parents prepare the child
to share his toys. There’s a another story to prepare him for the time when his friend will go home.
As a model, this book is helpful. As a book for a parent who is entering new territory as they introduce a toddler on the spectrum to new situations, it’s a great tool. But it suffers from the fact that it is a Trade Marked concept. It offers suggestions for how to use the book, but doesn’t suggest ways in which families can personalize these stories to make them more powerful.
Gray Doesn’t Go Far Enough . . .
My Social Stories Book fails to explore the strength of social narratives that use pictures of the child for whom the story is written, it lacks the physical presence of a single bound story with illustrations, that can become a cherished possession of a child on the spectrum. That alone can make the content powerful and reinforce the social lesson the book was designed to teach.
I’m a big believer in social narratives. One of my students on the Autistic Spectrum loved to go to the swings, but would tantrum when it was time to come back. I wrote him a social narrative, R—– Goes for a Walk, and illustrated it with digital pictures. It ended with “R—-‘s class spends 30 minutes at the playground, and then goes back to class for speech group, vocational activities, or to do puzzles.” No more tantrums.
Using digital pictures and the child’s name strengthen these stories in the same way that “self modeling” using edited video clips support social learning. Children on the Autism Spectrum tend to be very visual, and pictures which include them are highly motivating. I think there is also strength in the story format.
As I was researching social narratives online, I found a delightful web site Kids Can Dream , authored by the 17 year old sister of two boys with Autism. She includes a social story she adapted for her brother Jacob, as well as links to other sources for social narratives. I hope you will consider following Heather’s lead and customize the stories in this book to help your child with autism.