My thoughts on social stories & a freebie

So as I sit down to start writing more curriculum pieces this morning, my mind immediately goes to social stories.  They are by far my biggest seller on my teacherspayteachers store.  It is also ironic, as I almost always thought I had students that were functionally too low to really benefit from this sort of intervention.

What are social stories?  These are short stories that usually target a social, behavioral, or communication difficulty a person may have.  The stories address what the problem is, when it may occur, and how to deal with that problem all in a positive and affirming tone.  They are most often used with individuals who have autism, but their use has spread to many other situations as well.  They were first started by Carol Gray, and although I never took one of her seminars, it did not stop me from writing my own.  I found almost every story I wrote was unique to a particular student or situation, so it was always difficult to find a “ready-made” one that would fit.

How do you use social stories?  These stories are NOT meant to be used when the problematic situation is occurring.  They should be introduced in a place the student feels safest because it is likely that talking about a social situation may make them uncomfortable.  I would usually try to have set times in the student’s schedule to read the story.  Definitely first thing in the morning, and then shortly before I thought the situation may occur, like lunch time.  I would also review it again at the end of the day.  A copy always went home so the parents could read it with their child and also know how we were approaching a difficult situation they may also be experiencing.  After a few days, or when it seemed the language of the story was becoming part of the student’s internal dialogue, I would try role-playing.  It was a way I could assess their comprehension of the material without any formal test.  I would also be very aware of when that social situation would possibly occur and be ready to feed them cues we practiced from the story.

Here is a short video on how I use social stories:

Did they work?  Sometimes.  But here is the coolest thing I discovered about social stories:  I WAS THE ONE WHO LEARNED.  It helped me as a teacher and as a parent remember what cues to give the student when the situation occurred.  It became part of MY internal dialogue.  Once this “aha” moment occurred to me, I realized I should be using social stories for every single one of my students because they made me a better teacher and parent.  Yes, it did help some of my students, and most loved the cool pictures I would find to insert into the story, as well as the repetition and predictable text patterns.  It is so cool, how something specifically written for a kid helped me as an adult.

That is why I LOVE social stories.  

Here is a short video on how to write your own social story:

I have written a lot of them, and you can check them out in my store:  Special Needs for Special Kids.  But remember, anyone can write a social story so give it a try!!

Grab this freebie while you are there (click on the image below):

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A Very Winding Road (not so less traveled)

I am so happy you have stumbled upon this blog.  I am so excited to start sharing some of the things I have learned on my special education journey.  But, before I start, I guess I should fill you in on where it began…

Ever since I was 5 years old, I was going to be a veterinarian.  I dreamed of it, and had all the support of my friends and family to see my through the journey.  I graduated from NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 1995.  I was so excited and could not wait to get started solving the mysteries those ailing puppies and kittens would bring my way.  Just two years into this new life as Dr. Joy, I had our first child, Jimmy.  All was well, I took some time off from work and loved being home.  The following year, Gina was born and boy were my hands full.  I still tried to get in to practice medicine on the weekends, but then things took a turn.

Something seemed not quite right with Jimmy.  It took me a while to hear, see, and accept what others were trying to tell me.  Long story short, he was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 and my whole life changed.  It was like my child had died, but I was not allowed to grieve.  All I had dreamed of was gone in one afternoon at the doctor’s office.  All bets were off.

I won’t go into a long detailed list (and believe me it is LONG) of what my husband and I did to try and “save” our son.  It didn’t work, and it was bad.   Maybe that is a blog for another day.

Today, Jimmy is 18 and we are still struggling with all his condition entails.  But the silver lining through all of this is that I was forced to make a career change, and I believe it was in God’s plan all along.  I went back to school, got my teaching degree and master’s in special education and set out trying to figure out how to teach Jimmy and others like him.  Funny thing is, I have never regretted leaving medicine.  And though, I graduated from vet school with a bunch of awards and promise of an amazing career, I honestly don’t think that is what I was meant to do.  I still love solving mysteries, but now I love solving the mystery of how to teach kids that many think are unteachable.

Through this blog I hope to share some of my biggest “aha” moments I have had in teaching and living with a son with such a significant and profound disability.  Who knows, maybe there is a teacher or parent out there who will stumble across this and think, “Wow, that is a great idea.  I am going to try that.”  I can dream right?  For now my motto, “Just keep swimming” keeps me going and learning each day.