What is a social story? Social stories are a tool created to help guide a child through a specific experience or expectation. They are written in a first-person account and use very specific, positive, affirming language, which helps children visualize a positive outcome to a potentially frightening, new or overwhelming experience.
Who can benefit from social stories? Social stories can be used for young children of any ability. However, they were originally created for the purpose of teaching children and adults on the autism spectrum new information, skills and behaviors. Social stories provide frequent repetition, simple sentence structure, and easy to understand information in a first-person account. This helps the individual learn and memorize new, and potentially difficult or anxiety provoking, skills.
I have a neuro-typical or “typically” developing (non-autistic) child. A social story isn’t appropriate for them.... right? Social stories are helpful for young children of any ability, especially when learning new, unfamiliar or potentially scary information. As a Certified Child Life Specialist, I used social stories very frequently with neuro-typical children and found them to be just as helpful and effective. Children of any age regress developmentally when faced with life changing, scary or overwhelming information and tasks. Social stories are an amazing tool that meet the child where they are at, break the information down into easy to understand and relatable chunks, provide reassurance, and help the child visualize a positive outcome. Any child can see benefits! And with more and more children having adverse reactions to lockdown drills, providing safe information in a child friendly, developmentally appropriate, engaging, relatable and easily memorized format is the best approach.
Is the options-based approach, also commonly referred to as "Run, Hide, Fight", discussed in the book I Can Be A Superhero During A Lockdown? I chose to focus on three important jobs to teach children, rather than an option-based approach, based off of recent research and an understanding of child development. Recent research shows that options-based teaching is only effective for teenagers and adults and has no positive effects on children. When faced with a difficult decision in a traumatic situation, children will often freeze rather than making a decision or may even make the wrong choice. I chose to simplify the process by encouraging children to always listen to their teacher, or the adult in charge, and always follow all of his or her directions. In this way, options-based teaching CAN still be encouraged as needed, and children can focus on following the directions of the teacher rather than making a difficult choice in a dangerous situation.