Friday, March 22, 2013

Social Stories: parenting tool

A social story can be used with kids for a variety of purposes.  Many times, the stories are used for children in the autistic spectrum.  But of course many children who are outside the spectrum have difficulty with change, transitions, and social situations.  Your child may have anxiety or upset about a new year at school or an appointment at the dentist.  Maybe your child reacts inappropriately or without positive problem solving in some situations, and you would like to give them a "script" for acting in a different way. 

With my son, we use social stories primarily for issues of change and transition, when he is feeling nervous or reluctant about a situation.  Even if a fun party is coming up, my son likes to hear the "story" of what is going to happen ahead of time, and rehearse it in his mind like a script or movie. 

The story to the left is one that a parent devised with words and pictures to describe what a trip and Dr's appointment would feel like.  It is a "what to expect" story. 

My son recently had a birthday party because he turned 7.  He gets very excited about things like that, but also overwhelmed, not knowing how to handle the adrenaline.  "Am I feeling nervous or excited?  I feel uncomfortable."

I told him a story something like this:
Once upon a time, Joshua had a birthday party.  He was turning 7; what a wonderful number 7 is.  Joshua's friends wanted to celebrate with him and have fun.  So, on Saturday, 3 of Joshua's friends came to play, eat cake, and open presents.  Joshua felt excited but a little nervous.  On Saturday, mom decorated the table with green decorations and made a Lord of the Rings cake.  After I ate lunch, I helped her finish the decorations.  Mom told me that the boys would be here in 10 more minutes.  When the boys came, I opened the door and said "friend or foe!"  They laughed and came in.  We played with our swords first, like Lord of the Rings.  Mom gave us a 10 minute warning before it was time to stop playing and eat cake and ice cream.  The cake was chocolate and the ice cream was mint chocolate chip.  It was so good, I wished I could have more.  Next, I opened presents.  I knew that I might get a present that I didn't really want, or that I already have.  When that happens, I know to take a deep breath and say "Thanks!  You are such a good friend!"  I want to make my friends feel special.  After we opened presents, I played with my friends again before their parents pick them up.  What a good, tiring, and fun party.  After the party was rest time.  

After I told him the story, he said "tell it to me again."  He likes the story and repetition; it feels grounding.  One thing to consider is that unexpected things always happen.  This is a good learning tool as well.  At some point in the story, I typically add..."And this is how it happened...unless something unexpected happens.  It usually does and that's ok."  

How do you help your child with transitions?