There are a bunch of steps and a lot of work that goes into writing a good social story. But, if you don’t get this one part right, it will all be a waste of time.
What is it?
The most important step to writing an effective social story, one that will actually impact the behavior in a positive way, is first determining the function of the behavior you are targeting.
If you skip this step, or just assume you know it but get it wrong, then your social story will flop. It won’t matter how many positive words you weave in there. It won’t matter that you found the most awesome images to use. It won’t matter that you religiously review it every day before you head out the door. If you don’t address the WHY then it is just a story. It is just a story about some random person, who is experiencing something your student cannot relate to.
Everyone’s time is valuable. Everyone’s time is limited. In addition, when you are dealing with a difficult behavior in your classroom, there is zero time to waste. You want to address and eliminate that problem as quickly as possible. But, if you just slow down, at least in the beginning, and watch, listen, and understand what is really happening, then 80% of the work is done. Don’t believe me? Consider the example below.
Joey will not stay in his chair during you small group lesson. He is constantly climbing under the table, bumping into his friends, and disrupting your entire flow of teaching. You decide to write a social story. Maybe, it goes something like this:
But, the story has absolutely no effect on Joey’s behavior. In fact, he is crawling under the table even more. If you look closely at this story, it makes the assumption that Joey is crawling under the table because the work is too hard. Even the replacement behavior is meant to help Joey communicate that he needs help.
But, what if the real reason Joey is crawling under the table is to get your attention? What if his entire goal is to get you to stop teaching and convince him to come out? Can you see why this story just wouldn’t work?
I believe you can write an effective social story in less than 30 minutes. BUT, that is only if you do the work first of figuring out the function of that behavior. WHY is Joey crawling under the table. This may take some time, observation, data, and even outside opinions to get true clarity on Joey’s motivation. In addition, this is another reason why pre-written social stories sometimes don’t work that well. That underlying reason has to be the same. Your student has to be able to recognize themselves and their emotions in the story. You cannot do it with just photos. It goes deeper than that.
But, if you put in the time, energy, and thought up front, you can end up with a really, really good social story. And, it will likely take you less than 30 minutes to write it.