Social Stories – Part 3

We’re now past the halfway mark of describing how to write a Social Story. In this post, we will look at Criteria 6-7, looking at the types of questions used and the types of sentences that can be applied .

6. ‘Six Questions Guide Story Development’: These are the questions we hear and use everyday to make sense of things, i.e. Who (people involved), Where (describing context), What (skills to be learnt), When (describing time), How (the way things can be carried out) and most importantly Why (the rationale for the story!)

These questions provide the detail required to complete a successful Social Story. While it is not necessary to answer all these questions, it is important to consider them as a way to ensure story content is developed. Although it seems quite simple to address ‘wh’ questions, these can often be overlooked or not explored properly. Importantly, addressing ‘why’ questions ensures that the Story has ‘rationale’ or the actions/suggestions have some form of justification. Most Social Stories will effectively answer several ‘wh’ questions, sometimes even in the opening sentence (e.g. I (who) am playing soccer (what) at the park (where) tomorrow (when) for a friend’s birthday (why).

The ‘wh’ are always a great way to redirect a story’s purpose or when you are unsure of how to continue with the story or what more to say. Always make sure you’ve looked at all the relevant ‘wh’ questions for a Social Story.

7. ‘Seven Types of Social Story Sentences’: A Social Story has Descriptive Sentences, Perspective Sentences, Sentences that Coach (3 forms) , Affirmative Sentences and Partial Sentences.

1) Descriptive Sentences: These are the only ‘required’ sentences in a Social Story. They are factual, assumption free and describe context, relevant aspects of a situation, skill or concept. When writing descriptive sentences, it is often noted that this is like looking through a camera lens; what do you see? These sentences describe context. Importantly, descriptive sentences mention things that many people mistakenly assume are understood (e.g. Some holidays are long, others are short)

2) Perspective Sentences: These sentences are descriptors of a person’s internal state, thoughts, feelings, knowledge, motivation or health. These should be used cautiously, as writing about the state of someone else suggests a level of assumption. As such, these sentences are not always used, and should only be used when the content of the sentence is likely to be true for many children (e.g. I don’t not feel as tired when I have had a good sleep). Perspective is therefore often used to describe the internal status of others (e.g. Adults think it is polite to wait your turn to speak).

3) Sentences that Coach: These have three distinct forms:

a) sentences coaching the audience: Often these are sentences that are ‘misused’. Careful wording is required to ensure that self-esteem and emphasis on effort are maintained here (e.g. ‘I will try to…’). Choice is also promoted in coaching sentences (e.g. I may choose to play on the playground or the oval at lunch time).

b) sentences coaching the team: These sentences address what others will do to assist a child in the story. These sentence define the role of others to provide support for achieving a consistent response to a situation or behaviour. It also provides predictability, as it discusses what other people, supporting the child, will be doing in advance (e.g. Mr Smith allows me time to have a movement break after reading).

c) self-coaching sentences: These sentences encourage the audience to recall personal strategies or information to apply to the situation/context. This encourages responsibility from the child, and the story reinforces this, so the child has some ‘control’ of the outcomes of a situation. Self coaching is often used to encourage ‘self-talk’, important for emotional regulation and information recall (e.g. When I am feeling mad, I can stay calm by taking myself to the quiet corner and laying on the pillows). It is often useful to consult the child when writing self-coaching sentences, and use their words to encourage them to remember a skill or piece of information.

4) Sentences that Coach: These are designed to ‘enhance’ the meaning of surrounding comments (or shared opinion). They often stress the importance of a point, rule or reassure. Importantly, these sentences follow a descriptive, perspective or coaching sentence (e.g. When at the playground, children should try to take turns using the monkey bars. This is playing fairly).

5) Partial Sentences: These add in a ‘fill in the blank’ format. They are useful for consolidation of information and encouraging a child to problem solve. These can be used once a story has been reviewed several times, so children are problem solving and consolidating. All of the above sentence forms can be converted into a partial sentence, requiring filling in the blank for important concepts/key words(e.g. Adults think it is polite to wait for your turn to _______ ). A word doesn’t have to be identical to that in the original story, provided the context or meaning is similar.

The next Social Story post will conclude our discussion of Social Stories and how to write your own.

*’The New Social Story Book’ (2010) by Carol Gray, Future Horizons, was used in collecting some of the information for this blog post.


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