For a very long time, a day out with Helen was certain to be a disaster. Even familiar, routine outings could cause 3 hour meltdowns, self-injury and a host of other problems. So, you can imagine the results of someplace unfamiliar. Then we stumbled on social stories. And they have absolutely changed life for our family.
What: A story, picture or video that describes a specific place or activity, including expected behaviors of the people involved. In other words, where we’re going and what everyone will be doing.
Why: Entire books have been written on the theories of “why”. For us, several things:
1. Helen really struggles with interpreting information she hears. Pictures are much easier to understand.
2. In social settings, particularly when unfamiliar, she is slow to interpret facial expressions and what people are saying. Social stories give her a “heads up” about what she’ll see and hear and how she should respond.
3. As for all of us, familiar things are usually more comfortable. Social stories make whatever we’re about to do more familiar.
How: We usually view the book/video before (to prepare), during (to understand and cope) and after (to process) the event. The more stressful the event is likely to be for her, the more we review.
Cons: It takes time, but the benefit has been tremendous for us.
Where to find:
1. Videos like this one. Just google social story and the activity (such as social story bowling) and a you tube video will probably come up.
2. Apps. Our favorite is Model Me Going Places. She’s watched it a million times. At least.
3. Homemade books. If I can’t quickly find what I’m looking for online, I just make a short, simple book about it. Often, Matthew draws the pictures. I also use this when we’re running errands or having someone over.
Best Wishes- Alan and Jennifer