Posts Tagged ‘autistic mind’

Managing Your Autistic Child’s Behavior.

Monday, January 25th, 2010

How do you help your Autistic child deal with difficult and everyday situations?

Autism is a complex disorder, which affects mainly boys. There is no cure for Autism, but there are resources available to you as a parent of an Autistic child.

Living with an Autistic child is stressful; you can’t just spontaneously take the family out for the day, or take an unexpected holiday, turn up at school in a new car, or surprise them with a party.

Although these are all normal activities, and undoubtedly your other children would love; even the smallest change from routine can throw your Autistic child into a state of panic, which can cause a tantrum and so on…

Things need planning properly, that’s where social stories come into their own.


They allow the autistic child chance to rehearse the upcoming event, or practice the already learnt skill.

They also give you the opportunity to express your thoughts and feelings these can easily be added into the social story. A social story is like a little friend a constant reminder of how we act.

Your Autistic child will find reassurance in his/her story and the right social cues. They are constant, repetitive and will act as a kind of security blanket for your autistic child.

The upcoming event, like a new baby, a new puppy, a new pair of shoes even can be discussed, even role played on the first couple of readings of a new story.

You will be giving your child an insight into what will happen, or what already happens, why it happens, what it happens for and how they are meant to act, or what they are meant to do.

What about saying Hi, or excuse me, things we do automatically, but to an autistic mind these things are just silly, why do you want to say Hi to someone you don’t know, or don’t really care for, or even want to.

Politeness is a learnt skill, we learn it and it sticks in our minds, the autistic mind needs a gentle reminder of this skill, unlike a typically developing mind the autistic mind needs help learning social and communication skills.

So let’s take a look at social stories, they are with you constantly, a little reminder and a solid  descriptive, straight forward, never deviating, or spontaneous, friend, their to help child with autism feel comfortable with situations, activities and events.

Social stories:

Can be a very useful tool they are used to teach social skills to children and people with autism.

A social story is a simple description of an everyday social situation, written from the Autistic a person’s perspective.

Social stories are designed to help with social situations as well as normal everyday events and activities.

They are also used to prepare for upcoming changes in the autistic persons routine and help the autistic person deal with other situations that are out of their normal daily routine.

For example a birth, marriage, death or other situation or activity.

The idea behind these social stories is to allow the autistic person to accustom themselves with the up-coming event, or daily activity or situation.

So that the Autistic person is aware of what is going on and can deal with it and the hope is that the social story will help with the autistic person’s behavior.

What are social stories like?

Social stories are always written in the first person, in the present tense, and from the autistic person’s point of view.

The social story should be written in a way that the child with autism can understand. It should match their level of vocabulary and be as specific and personalized as possible.

The story should be written and put into a document/ booklet format.

Once the story has been written a responsible adult, parent, teacher, therapist etc. should read the story with the child/person at least two to three times before the child/person is given the story to read themselves.

This is to ensure that the autistic person understands the important elements in the story.

This can be done by re-reading the story and going over the important elements with the autistic person. You may find a check list approach or role playing the situation in conjunction with reading the story helpful.

For younger children who can not read, or find reading difficult their Mum, Dad, Teacher or adult will need to read the social story for them.

The overall effectiveness of each story should be monitored, with the story being tweaked and or changed as the behavior is learnt.

What is the theory behind it?

Social stories were created to help autistic people improve their social understanding and interactions.

It was found that in children and adults with autism, by giving them simple and clear descriptions and instructions, social cues, to appropriate behaviors they were able to manage much better.

However, it is still not clear why social stories work better for children and adults with autism, than picking up social cues from their everyday environment.

Researchers believe this is due to the “theory of mind”. Which is basically that autistic people have problems understanding why we do the things we do. They find our lives confusing; they prefer repetition and things to remain the same at all times.

There are a number of ways social stories help improve the “theory of mind”.

One theory is that by giving prompts and suggestions to specific social cues and behaviors for situations, using social stories may actually help to improve the autistic person’s problem solving abilities.

Social stories are also used to help the autistic person manage certain situations. Which will then help them to deal with tasks, activities and situations that they previously found difficult and confusing or upsetting?

They can also help the autistic child / person understand what is expected of them, and what they can expect from other people.

Do Social Stories work?

Research has shown that social stories do help reduce problem behaviors. They also help to increase the autistic person’s social awareness, and have been found to help re-enforce an already learnt skill or teach a new one.

Social stories are more useful to autistic children and adults who have basic language skills.

Although you can get social stories in audio and pictorial formats. It is not known if social stories work when sign language is used.

There are no known negative effects of social stories reported and it is believed amongst the medical and social professionals that social stories are beneficial to  all autistic children, young people and adults.

The belief is that the social story can be used to teach the autistic person social skills that he/she would otherwise not know how to use appropriately.

This in itself is a good thing and can help alleviate what could otherwise be stressful situations for parents and carer’s.

So what does a social story look like?

Social stories are made from different sentence types.

Descriptive, Perspective, Directive. They may also include Affirmative, Control, Co-operative sentences.

Descriptive sentences provide information about specific social settings or situations, for example they provide cues to what the person sees, who is involved, and what happens, For example: At lunch time most of the children will go to the dinner hall.

Perspective sentences describe the feelings, emotions, thoughts, and/or mood of other people. Describing the way a situation is viewed by some body else, many kids with autism have difficulties understanding how others see things. For example: Usually, when people are happy, they smile.  Smiling makes people feel good.

Directive sentences provide the autistic person with information about what they should try and do, to be successful in the situation. For example: If I stay calm in class, I will learn more.

Recommended formula for writing Autism social stories:

Are two to five Descriptive sentences for each Directive sentence, which may include Perspective sentences. Research shows that many stories which follow this ratio will be successful.

Children especially autistic children respond well to learning through pictures.

Pictorially rich social stories are thought to be better and easier for the autistic child to understand.

Social stories can be designed for all age ranges and abilities.

A good social skills story will help in all areas as long as it is introduced properly as explained earlier. Then monitored for its overall effectiveness.

If a social skills story is deemed not to be working, it should be tweaked and then used. If it is still not working, the social skills story should be looked at, is this the right story? Or maybe a different social skills story would best suit the situation.

At www.autismsocialstories.com  we aim to provide pictorially rich, specific social stories that can be printed off and used for various ages.