Social Stories (TM)


Because of their lack of understanding of social cues or rules, people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often face challenges when having to respond to social behavior and engage in social interactions. Social narratives can teach new social skills and encourage individuals to regulate their behavior through relatively short sentences or phrases. In this section, we will be focusing soley on Social Stories ™ although other types of social narratives incude social scripting and Power Cards

Social Stories(TM) are individualized stories that describe a social situation, often from the individual with ASD's perspective. Social Articles(TM) are similar to Social Stories(TM) except that they are written to include more age-appropriate material for adults. Both can be written in a variety of formats, including pictures with words, text alone, audiotapes, videotapes, PowerPoint, etc. The Social Story(TM) often includes information about how others feel, why the situation occurs, how others may react to the situation, and where and why the situation occurs. Social Stories(TM) are written in a specifically delineated format and style explained by Gray. Examples and more information about this specific format and style can be found on the following website: (

Carol Gray suggests that when writing Social Stories(TM) at least 50% of the story provides positive reinforcement for an achievement or something they are doing well. All Social Stories(TM) are written in positive language and contain mostly descriptive sentences. A Social Story(TM) is written from a first-or a third-person perspective, avoiding the use of terms such as "you should" or "you need to." Social Stories(TM) have been proven effective as strategies to change target behaviors. Developed by educators or others familiar with the child, Social Stories(TM) are written short stories that inform or describe an activity and the anticipated behavior associated with it. Social Stories(TM) also provide social information to teach appropriate social behavior governed by various unwritten and unspoken rules and nonverbal cues.

How to Use

According to Gray (1995, 2000), creating Social Stories(TM) involves the following four steps:

  1. Think about and picture the goal of the Social Story(TM). The main goal of Social Stories(TM) is to teach social rules or cues directly. Therefore, the adult must provide accurate information and descriptions of the concepts that need to be learned. 

  2. Gather information about the topic. The adult needs to deliberate on the topic, including when and where it occurs, who is involved, what to do in the process or sequence, and why people behave in certain ways. 

  3. Tailor the text. Guidelines for creating Social Stories(TM) include (a) write in three parts, introduction, body, and conclusion; (b) provide accurate information about “wh” questions for the activity or target behavior; (c) write with a first-person perspective; (d) use positive language; (e) consider the basic Social Story(TM) ratio of two to five descriptive, perspective, and/or affirmative sentences; and (f) use literally accurate words (e.g., usually or sometimes). 

  4. Teach with the title. A title that addresses the overall meaning or a core concept of the story should be developed.

In her guidelines for Social Stories(TM), Gray (1995) outlines four types of sentences: descriptive, perspective, directive, and affirmative sentences. A descriptive sentence provides the facts in a situation or the main aspects of the topic. A perspective sentence describes others’ feelings, thoughts, or beliefs. A directive sentence describes desired responses to social situations, gives
the child alternative choices or behaviors, and usually begins with I will, I may, or I will try. In addition, a directive sentence should be developed carefully, based on the possibility of literal interpretation. Finally, an affirmative sentence can be used to reassure the child by providing common values and meanings in a given culture.

When To Use

Social Stories™ can be use in school, home, community and vocational locations.


Using multimedia such as computer-based programs or videotaping can help magnify the effects of Social Stories(TM). For example, video modeling combined with Social Stories(TM) can help students use self-monitoring or self-management of their emotions or behaviors (Hagiwara & Myles, 1999; Scattone, 2008).



Implementation Checklist from the NPDC on ASD

Resource List

Cashin, A. (2013). The effectiveness of narrative therapy with young people with autism. Journal of Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 26(1), 32-41.

Cihak, D. F., Kildare, L. K., Smith, C. C., McMahon, D. D., & Quinn-Brown, L. (2012). Using video Social Stories(TM) to increase task engagement for middle school students with autism spectrum disorders. Behavior Modification, 36(3), 399-425.

Gray, C. A. (2000). The new social story book(TM). Arlington, TX: Future Horizons

Hutchins, T. L., & Prelock, P. A. (2005). Using Social Stories(TM) and Comic Strip Conversations(TM) to promote socially valid outcomes for children with autism. Seminars in Speech & Language, 27, 47-59.

Iskander, J. M., & Rosales, R. (2013). An evaluation of the components of a social stories(TM) intervention package. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 7(1), 1-8.

Leaf, J. B., Oppenheim-Leaf, M. L., Call, N. A., Sheldon, J. B., Sherman, J. A., Taubman, M., & Leaf, R. (2012). Comparing the teaching interaction procedure to social stories for People with Autism. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 45(2), 281-298.

Example #1

Sometimes I get angry when schedules change. (Descriptive)
Teachers usually tell me before things change. (Descriptive)
Sometimes teachers cannot tell me before things change. (Descriptive)
I will ask a teacher what to do if I am confused about the new schedule, instead of crying or yelling. (Directive)

Then I will try to understand and respect what the teacher says. (Directive) Schedules can be changed, and it is okay to follow a new schedule. (Affirmative) When the schedule is changed, I will follow the new schedule. (Directive)


Case Study: Jacob

My name is Jacob. I am in the second grade. Sometimes the children in my class stand in a line.

The children in my class stand in a line when we are getting ready to go to another part of the school like the lunchroom or the library.

The children in my class walk in a line to move safely in the halls. If another group of students are walking in the hall going in a different direction, our class and their class can pass one another easily. That's why teachers have asked children to walk in lines for many years. It is a safe and orderly way to move groups of children through the school building.

Sometimes I am the line leader. This means that the other children in my class will walk behind me. Sometimes I am second, or third, or last, or maybe I'm somewhere in the middle of the line.

Many children in my class like to be the line leader. My teacher knows who the line leader is each day. Teachers know about being fair and try to make sure each child gets a turn to be the line leader.

It's important to follow directions about who is line leader. My turn to be line leader again gets closer every time the children in my class walk in a line!

Adapted from The Gray Center,


Examples of basic sentences include:

Descriptive sentences

My name is Justin.
There are many people in a cafeteria during lunch time. We have circle time at school.
Some children are talking loudly in a hallway.

Perspective sentences

My teacher knows about my schedule. Some people like to read scary books. Some people believe in UFOs.
My sister likes to play the violin.

Directive sentences

I will try to listen to a teacher’s speech.
I will stay at home when my mom leaves to pick up my brother. When I have a question in class, I will raise my hand.

Affirmative sentences

This is okay.
This is a good idea.
This is very important to do.

Summary (for parents, administrators, direct service providers, etc.)

Social narratives can be used in various ways. Educators, paraeducators, parents, or other professionals can write social narratives for various situations. Based on the child’s needs and functioning levels in an academic or nonacademic setting, social narratives can guide the student toward appropriate behaviors or responses.


Hutchins, T. A. (2013). Parents’ perceptions of their children’s social behavior: The social validity of social stories(TM) and comic strip conversations. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 15(3), 156-168.
This study included 17 children with autism, along with 16 mothers and 1 father, who identified themselves as primary caregivers for these children. Parents rated effectiveness of Social Stories(TM) and comic strip conversations (CSC) interventions for varying social problems, and evaluated if there are any characteristics in children which might predict the outcome of a Social Stories(TM) or CSC intervention. Parents worked with clinicians to create

Test, D. W., Richter, S., Knight, V., & Spooner, F. (2011). A comprehensive review and meta- analysis of the Social StoriesTM literature. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 26(1), 49-62.
This meta-analysis of 28 studies involving Social StoriesTM of students with AU found the intervention effective. 


Platte Canyon High School, Mt. Evans BOCES, Bailey Colorado


National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders

Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence Disabilities (OCALI)

Texas Autism Resource Guide for Effecting Teaching (TARGET)


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