At Simpl4All, we believe that not the means are “special”, but the people themselves!

The Philosophy of Social Histories

Social Stories are a way to help people in the Autistic Spectrum to better understand social situations and expectations and exploit within them many simple language writing criteria.

Social Stories, developed by Carol Gray, are based on a philosophy that has five main points:

  • No assumptions: Parents and professionals often make wrong assumptions about what people with autism think and feel. Instead of assumptions, we should gather accurate information to find out how to help them better and make their lives happier.
  • Shared responsibility: Social situations involve at least two people; therefore, both parties have a role to play in making them work. If there is a problem, it is not only the fault of the person with autism, but also of the other person who may not understand it well.
  • Equal but different perspectives: People with autism and people without autism may see things differently, but neither is wrong. They both have valid points of view. The best way to deal with this is to learn how each side sees the situation and share it respectfully.
  • No quarrels: Since both perspectives are valid, there is no point in trying to change them or prove them wrong. Instead, we should look for ways to solve the problem together and find a solution that works for both sides.
  • Curiosity instead of confusion: Sometimes, autistic people may act or respond in ways that confuse us. Instead of giving up or saying ‘we have tried everything’, we should remain curious and try to understand why they do what they do. There is always something new to learn and think about.

What is a Social History?

A Social Story is a short story that tells a person in the Spectrum about a specific situation, skill, achievement or concept. It follows 10 criteria that ensure it is clear, useful, respectful and safe for the person reading it. These criteria are:

  • The aim: The story has a clear purpose and aims to share accurate information in a way that is suitable for the person in the Spectrum.
  • Discovery: The story is based on relevant information that the author gathers to better understand the person in the Spectrum and to decide what topic and focus the story should have. At least half of the stories should celebrate the achievements of the person in the Spectrum.
  • The parts and the title: The story has a title that tells what it is about, an introduction that explains the topic, a body that gives more details and a conclusion that summarises and reinforces the information.
  • The format: The story is written and presented in a way that suits the abilities, attention span, learning style and interests of the person in the spectrum.
  • Voice and vocabulary: The story uses a friendly and supportive tone and words that are appropriate for the person in the spectrum. It uses sentences in the first or third person (not second), past, present or future tense, literal and accurate language and clear and coherent meaning.
  • The questions: The story answers some questions describing the situation, such as where it happens, when it happens, who is involved, what clues are important, how to act or respond and why it is important to do so.
  • Sentences: History has two types of sentences: descriptive and coaching sentences. Descriptive sentences tell the facts about the situation, without making any assumptions, judgements or opinions. Coaching sentences give some suggestions or advice on how to behave or deal with the situation, in a kind and supportive way.
  • The formula: The story has more descriptive sentences than coaching. This makes the story explain rather than instruct.
  • Revision: The story is not finished after the first draft. It is checked by people who know the person in the Spectrum well and modified if necessary to ensure that it follows all the criteria and is suitable for the person in the Spectrum.
  • Implementation: The story is not just read once and forgotten. It is used in a way that helps the person in the Spectrum to understand and remember it. Some of the steps to do this are: planning how to make the story easy to understand and support, reviewing the story regularly, introducing the story in a positive way, monitoring the effects of the story, organising the stories in a logical way, combining different stories to teach new concepts, repeating and updating the stories if necessary, praising the achievements of the person in the Spectrum and staying up to date with the latest research and developments on Social Stories.

What is the relationship between Simple Language and Social Stories?

Simplified language and social stories are related because both aim to help people in the Spectrum understand and communicate better. Simplified language is a way of using words and sentences that are clear, literal and easy to understand. Social stories are stories that describe a situation, skill, achievement or concept in a way that is suitable for the person in the spectrum. Simplified language can be used to write social stories that are more effective and meaningful for the audience. Simplified language should be implemented in a social story following certain guidelines, such as:

  • Use first or third person statements, not second person ‘you’. This helps the person in the Spectrum to identify with the story and avoid confusion.
  • Use past, present or future time consistently and accurately. This helps the person in the Spectrum to understand the sequence and timing of events.
  • Use a positive and patient tone. This helps the person in the spectrum to feel supported and encouraged.
  • Use literal and accurate language. This helps the person in the Spectrum to avoid misunderstandings or misinterpretations.
  • Use clear and consistent meaning. This helps the person in the Spectrum to learn and remember information.

These factors ensure that the social history uses simplified language that is descriptive, meaningful, respectful and safe for the person in the spectrum.

For more information on Social Stories:

Image source : “Behavior Social Stories” from The Autism Helper

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