Teaching Social Skills to Early Learners

3 12 2011

Strategy: Social Stories


  • Social stories are used with children who have autism spectrum disorders.  Social stories help these individuals tolerate change and teach them how to interact in specific social situations.  Explicit instruction is necessary for many of these children.    Early learners who do not exhibit autism can also benefit from social stories.
  • Social stories can be used to teach new routines and expected actions.
  • Social stories contain simple steps for achieving certain goals.


  • A social story can be created to match exact situations children will encounter.
  • Very little planning is required to develop a script for a social story.  A handwritten script for a story can simply be read aloud to the student(s).  The teacher or adult has the option of writing the story down and creating a more formal presentation of the story (e. g., a book).
  • A social story is a nonthreatening, enjoyable way of communicating expected behaviors.
  • Rereading the story reinforces expected behaviors.
  • Students begin to visualize themselves doing the appropriate behaviors (like a mental rehearsal).
  • Students learn from the story what types of feelings will result in doing appropriate behaviors, and what feelings and consequences result from behaving inappropriately/incorrectly.
  • Social stories can prevent problem behaviors and student anxiety (resulting from uncertainty about what to do and how to act).  When a social story is read prior to a new situation, the student(s) have already mentally rehearsed expected behaviors.
  • Social stories reinforce the concept of stories (as a language arts goal for early learners).

Elements included in a Social Story:

  1. Describe the context of the target situation.  (a descriptive sentence)
  2. Describe the desired behavior which would follow a specific social cue or situation.  (a descriptive sentence)
  3. Describe typical reactions and feelings of others (e. g., how they would perceive the desired behavior).   (a perspective sentence)
  4. Statements which validate the socially acceptable behaviors – affirming the importance of such behaviors.  (an affirmative sentence)

Sample Social Story Script :

In school I have ‘center time.’  (Descriptive Sentence) 

At ‘center time’ I like to visit the building station and the shopping station.   (Descriptive Sentence)

Other kids like to play with me at the building station.  (Perspective Sentence)

When I share nicely in the building station, other kids are happy with me.   (Perspective Sentence)

It’s a good thing to share nicely. (Affirmative Sentence) 

It would be a bad thing if someone grabbed a Lego block from a kid.  (Descriptive Sentence) 

That would make the kid cry.  (Perspective Sentence) 

Jesus told us to love others.  (Descriptive  Sentence)  

Jesus had a good idea when He made that rule.  (Affirmative Sentence)

That’s why it is good to first ask nicely if you want a turn to play with a Lego.  (Affirmative Sentence)

Whenever I share nicely, the other kids want to play with me more and more.  (Perspective Sentence)