Got Behavior Problems? Try a Social Story

social story - Boston Moms Blog

My husband and I were first introduced to social stories by our son’s kindergarten special education teacher. We had just gotten our kids bunk beds, which our son was initially super excited about. Then, the first time he tried out the top bunk, he banged his head on the ceiling. Our younger child was not quite ready for the top bunk, so when our son, the big brother, got upset and refused to sleep in the new bed, we thought we were doomed. 

I wrote a note to his teacher explaining what had happened. She told us he had been talking at school about how excited he was for the bunk bed. She offered to make us a social story about the new bed.  

And it worked! We read our son his social story before bed, and he agreed to sleep in the top bunk. We continued to read his story every night for a couple of weeks, and he never had a problem getting in his bed again.

So what is a social story, exactly? Social stories were conceptualized by a pediatric doctor and autism researcher to help enhance the social skills and behaviors of individuals with ASD. Social stories can model appropriate social interactions by showing a basic description of a situation using proper social cues, others’ perspectives, and a recommended response. In our experience, a social story looks like simple sentences and pictures to break down a challenging situation our son is facing.

A couple of months after the bunk bed incident, we asked my son’s teacher to make a social story for him to prepare for the arrival of his new baby brother. He was very anxious about the situation. She put together a story and included pictures of our hospital, of him, and of his little sister when she was a baby. Thanks to a scheduled C-section, every detail about the day of his brother’s birth and the days after could be planned out and included in his social story.

Since then, we have made social stories about many things. A few particularly difficult situations that social stories helped get us through include cutting fingernails, giving up the iPad, buckling a seatbelt, flexible thinking, staying on schedule, bathroom etiquette, hitting (safe body and safe hands), and safety at the bus stop. Here a couple of those stories

My son likes his social stories to be written in the first person and to include lots of pictures. There are apps to help make social stories, like social story creator, where you can add audio and your own photos, or you can use a word document and Google images for pictures.

Whether kids have special needs or not, they occasionally need a clearer picture of what is expected in certain situations. A social story is a visual way to show them just that!


Leah is a Massachusetts native who grew up in the MetroWest area. She met her husband in 2006 and they bonded over all things Boston. After moving to North Carolina for 4 years, they realized they had to move back to New England. (love that dirty water!) In 2011 they welcomed a son into their family. Then 2014, 1 week before having their daughter, their son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The last but not least little guy came in 2017. With three kids and special needs in their life, they rely on an amazing support system of friends and family. Leah is a stay at home mom, who is also growing a small business, and enjoying the independence and freedom it has given her. Loves: Great food (mostly made by her talented husband), playing with the kids, the beach, date nights, The Pats, The Sox, The B’s, new socks and bras, and American history, and movies. Can’t stand: Cotton balls, weeds, broken crayons, pollen, and vacuuming up Cheerios every half hour.