I don't understand why I can't go to school. Why do I have to stay at home?
Social stories can be written in different ways. A great format for a social story has been suggested by Laurie Leventhal-Belfer, a clinical psychologist. This sort of social story focusses just as much on the feelings that a child might have about the rules which help us navigate life as the reasons for the rules. Another useful thing about this approach is that it focusses on planning ways to cope. This can be useful for children who struggle to understand the social world and find it unpredictable and frightening. Being a 'problem-solver' can put the child back in the driving seat, rather than leaving them confused and lost.
A key step in getting the story to chime with the child is to be clear what theme, issue, event or rule it is that the child is struggling with. For the social story we are sharing here, we have chosen a concern that many children are bringing up at the moment - I don't understand why I can't go to school. This story is one that we have written with children who are struggling with changes in routine in mind. It might give you some ideas about how to talk to start a conversation with a child about the issues which are botherning them. It might well be that after this conversation, the social story will need changing and adapting in order to reflect more accurately the particular child that the story is for.
A social story works best when the adults have asked the child what is going on for them and then thought carefully about what the child is saying and doing. A social story is designed to give additional information about the situation in a reassuring way in order to support a child's understanding. The words are chosen to carefully, so that the story does not tell children what they should feel or think as this would be disrepectful.
The social story we are sharing here has a lot of thinking behind it. It was carefully planned, using four prompts:
What is the dilemma, difficulty or theme that the child is struggling with?
What sorts of feelings do people have in these situations? What feelings does the child we are writing the story for have?
What does the child need to know about the situation to make better sense of it?
What strategies can we offer to start a conversation about ways the child can cope?
If you like the story, we are very happy for you to look at it together with a child as a conversation starter. Please remember that is important that you adapt and change it to meet the individual needs of the child or children that you will be sharing it with.