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Social Stories

What are they are how are they useful?

Girls reading a book at sunset

I wanted to touch on a topic which can be useful to know and integrate into routines as needed.

Carol Gray developed social stories in 1991, they are largely used with individuals with Autism however they are useful tools across the developmental span to help address behaviors or issues stemming from Anxiety, ADHD, Phobias, Anger Management, etc. Social Stories present information in a "concrete" way to aide in improving the individuals understanding. Effective social stories can be as short as 2-5 sentences (with pictures depending on the individual's age and developmental need).

Advantages of Using Social Stories:

Memory development, Builds Empathy, Concrete Instruction, Gives Clear Communication, Builds Literacy Skills. Parents can use social stories to "teach and reinforce":

  • Self care skills (teeth brushing, night time routine, sharing, asking for help)
  • Perspective taking/ empathy- how to respond in social situations
  • Helps teach coping skills in stressful situations (new school, moving homes, loss of a pet)
  • Teaches behavioral modification - using coping skills (anger management)

When writing social stories you want to picture the goal. What is the purpose of the social story? (for example: not hitting others) Think of what the child needs to understand to achieve the goal. They may need to understand that hitting others is hurtful and they can communicate in other manners if upset. Gather information about the person's interest, their age, attention span and ability to understand concepts in order to tailor text to the individual. Stories should answer where, when, who, what, how and why. Present the social story to the individual in a calm environment free from distractions. Plan how often the story will be read and where it will be reviewed. Be consistent in the use of the story until you feel that the individual has mastered the skill.



I walk in parking lots
Walking keeps me safe
When I walk, I need to stay with an adult (parent)
I will not run from the adults (parent)
Running makes people scared and I might get hurt
If I walk my parents will be happy and I will stay safe.


If I get angry there are things to remember
We should Never hit our friends or teachers
Hitting hurts others and makes them feel sad
Instead of hitting, I can move away, find a quiet space and count to 10
Always remember to use your words or pictures to say why you are upset.

For further information, resources and references please visit:

Sara McGrath, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is a Clinical Associate with Family Guidance Centers in our Midlothian office. She provides individual, child, and family therapy. She can be reached at 804-743-0960 or can be emailed at

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