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Social Stories - Communication for People on the Autistic Spectrum or with Learning Differences

by John@Evolve - Jonathan Brown(more info)

listed in learning difficulties, originally published in issue 233 - October 2016

People on the autistic spectrum or with a learning difference often find it more difficult to learn some of the things that come naturally to neuro-typical people. This in no way means that they cannot learn. In fact there is no such thing as a person who cannot learn. There are only people who lack the skills to teach them. Thankfully the right people are now doing research into how we can celebrate Neurodiversity and best tap into the strengths and attributes of all individuals who make up our society.

Cover Neurodiversity

One of the methods that can be extremely effective in the right circumstances is the use of social stories for those with communication difficulties. This allows people to learn in a safe environment where social pressures are not present. This can be especially helpful for those who may find social interaction difficult and therefore take longer to learn by observing others. Social stories usually take the form of a brief, descriptive comic strip style narrative with pictures. They will have a clear, concise moral or teaching built in and can be useful for many things, including:

  • Social cues & social rules;
  • Encouraging to complete less-preferred tasks;
  • Reinforce or teach abstract concepts, such as time (e.g., next, later), actions, and prepositions (e.g., open, put in,);
  • Break down multi-step tasks into smaller, more manageable parts;
  • Increase independence by improving ability to complete parts of a routine with less help or prompting.

Social stories will have a clear beginning, middle and end. There are generally 3 types of sentence in a good social story:

  • Descriptive sentences - giving accurate information about the setting. They provide in words basic facts about what can be seen;
  • Perspective sentences - provide simple information about why things happen. Inviting the reader into the hearts and minds of those featured in the story;
  • Directive sentences - Prompt appropriate behavior or response.

They can be suited to an individual and the language and text completely person centred. There are now specific apps available for creating social stories on iPad’s, mobile phones, tablets or the old fashioned paper method.

They can be used to help an individual develop extra coping strategies e.g. deep breathing to counteract the physiological elements of stress…


They can be quite complex…

Coping Strateies Complex


Or very simple…

Coping Strategies Simple


They can be used to help explain unwritten social ‘rules’ in an easy to understand format e.g. personal space…

Unwritten Social Rules


Or to explain the processes involved in certain personal care tasks…

Personal Care Shower Routine

There are lots of resources on the internet that can help you put together simple social stories. However, if you feel it may be useful, either of the behaviour support coordinators are available to attend team workshops to discuss ideas and provide extra input.


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About John@Evolve - Jonathan Brown

John@Evolve - Jonathan Brown Dhp Michp - is a member of the Consultant Psychologist led EVOLVE team who may be contacted via  Evolve APC are a company offering the gold standard in training and consultancy within the UK and Ireland. They can be contacted at

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