The last step: fading out your social story

Fading out social stories

Now that you have gotten the perfect social story crafted, and it is in use, what do you do next? It is not practical to think a student will require the use of a story prior to every potential incident. But, stop using it too quickly, and you could end up right where you started.

There are 3 main ways you can start to fade out the use of a social story so that it will still retain its desired effect.

1. Start eliminating some additional supports

I talked back in previous posts about the fact that social stories are rarely used as a stand alone tool. Most often, it is just one tool we use to combat a problem behavior. We often add things like token boards, prompts, and even modeling. We are always looking to set our students up with success, especially at the beginning. But once your student is successfully utilizing the replacement behavior, you can start eliminating some of those additional tools you were using.

As with all things, I recommend only making one change at a time. That way, if a problem occurs, you have a good idea where it came from. Look at any additional supports you may be using. Eliminate the ones that are most intrusive first, like modeling. If after a few days, all is still good, try eliminating some prompts.

➡️If you are using token boards along with your story, you may actually want to consider fading the story first, and keep the token board in place. Token boards are a powerful visual tool for many students. They serve not only as motivators, but are great for self-monitoring. For that reason, I often ended up eliminating the story (using the steps below) while keeping the token board in place.

2. Start decreasing the frequency

This is possibly the most obvious way to fade the use of a successful social story. If you are using the story 5 days a week, try going to 4 days a week, eliminating Friday. If that has not caused any regression, then go to every other day. Finally, I would go to one day a week. I typically choose Monday as a way to start the week off on the best foot. Plus, we all need that extra reminder after the weekend.

Once you have eliminated reading the story completely, don’t get rid of it! I still liked to review it periodically. I also liked to keep a copy for substitutes to read, either just to themselves, or with the student. That way, the student knows the same rules apply even with a new teacher.

➡️Lastly, my students LOVED when I put “retired” social stories in the independent reading center. Most could read the story on their own after hearing it so many times. It also had a positive message. In addition, it was a story they could related to on a very personal level. As long as you followed the best practice of never using the social story as a punishment, then this strategy will work great.

3. Shorten your story…. WHAT?!?

I know, rewriting or even editing your social story may not sound that appealing. But, it is not that hard, I promise. I even have a before and after story you can download to see what I mean.

First, take out any of those “extra” pages you may have added to engage the student at the beginning. Maybe you talk about their favorite superhero and how they would approach the situation. Or, you talk about how a famous celebrity would be so proud of them for following through with the actions outlined in the story. For me, it was taking out some pages that students found hilarious in the story I wrote about Staying in your Chair. They loved the word “Yuck” at the time. So, I put in several pages of how dirty the floor was in various places, followed by the word Yuck! They loved it, but these pages were the first to go.

You can also eliminate some of the examples you may have. If you talk about how the negative behavior can upset the teacher and their friends, then just talk about one or the other. If you talk about how excited their parents or teacher will be, then just keep one of those two examples.

Another strategy is to decrease the number of words you have on the page. Shorten up the sentences, or eliminate a sentence or two. Remember, your students knows this story by now. It is okay to give them the cliff notes version.

In the example you can download below, I took a 19 page story and shortened it to 7 pages!! And, it still worked. (Just a side note, the version I put in the independent reading area for the whole class was the full, complete version.)

So, if you never thought about systematically fading our your social story before, I hope now you feel like you have a clear plan of action on how to do that.

➡️You can download my complete social story on Staying in My Chair as well as the shortened version by clicking the button below. (This story assumes the function of the behavior is escape and NOT attention.)


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