speech therapists

Speech Therapists Use Social Stories to Spur Language Development

Sometimes children with speech and language delays need a bit of additional help learning about social situations and appropriate responses. Our speech therapists in Fort Myers know one tool that has proven extremely useful is “Social Stories.”

A social story is basically what it sounds like: It’s a short, simple story intended to teach children what to expect in certain social settings. These short books, which include pictures of the child and familiar settings, don’t have to be fancy. They can incorporate photos you shoot on your smartphone and print out on your computer. A therapist can craft or help you create a social story for help with certain scenarios in which your child seems to be struggling. When the story is read repeatedly to the child, combined with images of themselves and the difficult scenario they are confronting, it can be powerful. Social stories can also help those with language delays and deficits to understand certain nuances of interpersonal communication – giving them tools to interact in a manner that is both appropriate and effective.

Social stories were first developed in the early 1990s by Carol Gray, a Michigan school teacher whose four children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. She explained it helps children understand what can be difficult for those with language delays or deficits to comprehend.

Gray explains in her Social Story Sampler that there are several main goals of these stories:

  • Safety. Helps children understand and follow certain rules. (i.e., fire drills, cafeteria rules, blurting out in class, etc.)
  • Discovery of self and others. Recognizing that each individual is unique and what expectations are in certain types of interactions. (i..e, what hands are for, being nice to others,when you make a mistake, when you’re angry, using the restroom, when you have a play date, getting a haircut, etc.)
  • Advanced concepts. These involve explaining concepts that might be harder to grasp, such as resilience or stereotypes.

Because at FOCUS Fort Myers we’re dealing mostly with young children (under the age of 12), our speech therapists are primarily creating/ assisting with social stories that deal with safety and discovery of self and others. When a child is effective at navigating certain social situations, it’s going to improve their ability to understand and effectively communicate with those around them in those settings.

What’s important for children with speech and language delays in these social stories is that they relay concepts that are simple, concise and broken down into clear steps – often ones that can be easily illustrated.

For instance, if your child is struggling with his or her morning routine, we may want to help create a social story book called, “(Your Child’s Name) Gets Ready for School.” It will use short, simple phrases like, “When Mom wakes me up in the morning, I get out of bed.” We would follow that with something like, “Then, I get dressed.” “Next, I eat breakfast.” “After breakfast, I brush my teeth.” Each of these steps would be accompanied by a photograph (preferably several of your child completing those tasks).

When the book is finished, you will read it to your child a number of times before the routine comes up again. Then when the routine time comes, read it again. It will help them to better understand what is expected, and hopefully make for smoother transitions and completed tasks.

If you have questions about creating a social story for your child, our speech therapists and occupational therapists can help. There are also some decent examples on Pinterest, if you want to explore there as well.

FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Carol Gray Social Stories: Social Story Sampler

More Blog Entries:

Speech Therapist Answers: “Why Does My Child With Autism Echo Words and Sounds?” , Sept. 30, 2017, Fort Myers Speech Therapists’ Blog

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