What Are Social Stories™?


gray_carol__0003Carol Gray, former consultant to students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in Jenison, MI, and internationally-recognized author and presenter, first defined Social Stories™ in 1991. Since that time, an increased understanding of the approach, coupled with research and experience from those using the tool, has resulted in minor but important revisions to the original definition. The Defining Criteria and Guidelines, known as Social Stories™ 10.0, can be purchased from The Gray Center as a download.




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A Social Story™ describes a situation, skill, or concept in terms of relevant social cues, perspectives, and common responses in a specifically defined style and format. The goal of a Social Story™ is to share accurate social information in a patient and reassuring manner that is easily understood by its audience. Half of all Social Stories™ developed should affirm something that an individual does well. Although the goal of a Story™ should never be to change the individual’s behavior, that individual’s improved understanding of events and expectations may lead to more effective responses.

Although Social Stories™ were first developed for use with children with ASD, the approach has also been successful with children, adolescents, and adults with ASD and other social and communication delays and differences, as well as individuals developing normally. More recently, we have begin using Social Articles™ with adolescents and adults. These still follow the guidelines and criteria for writing a Social Story™ but are written at a more age-appropriate level and format. (For samples of Social Stories™ and Social Articles™ you can read issues of The Social Stories™ Quarterly.)

Sample Social StoriesTM by Carol Gray


  • To those who are interested in Social Stories about line leaders, there are several factors to consider as the Story is developed. Many times, children with ASD want to be first in line, each and every time, or last. Reasons for focusing on either position are varied, and may be due to, as examples, sensory issues or equating the first position with "perfection" or "winning". Since I only have two words - Line Leader - to work from to develop this Story, a lot of information that could personalize the focus, content, vocabulary, or illustrations for this Story are missing. In addition to a Social Story, be socially creative. It's important to respond to a child's needs, and to ensure that different positions in a line feel safe and comfortable to that child before requiring walk in those positions. One second grade teacher, who has more than one child with sensory needs warranting the last-in-line position, simply uses multiple lines to line up and/or walk the class from one part of the school to another. What follows is a VERY basic story in response to the submitted topic, Line Leader. - Carol Gray

Who is Line Leader?

My name is Andrew. I am in the first grade. Sometimes, the children in my class form (one, two, three, etc.) lines.

The children in my class stand in a line when we are getting ready to go to another part of the school. Children do move a little when they stand in a line. Children may move to scratch, or fix their shirt, or their shoe. Sometimes, because they are standing close together, children may touch one another. Many times, it is an accident when children touch one another in line. They were not planning to touch another child.

The children in my class walk in a line to move safely in the halls. Walking in a line keeps children in order, too. If another group of students are walking in the hall going the opposite direction, the two groups can pass one another easily. That's why teachers have asked children to walk in lines for many, many years. It is a safe and organized way to move many children.

Usually, children stand and walk in lines for a short period of time. Once the children reach their destination, their teacher often doesn't need them to stay in the line anymore.

Sometimes, I may be the Line Leader. This means that the other children in my class will walk behind me.

Sometimes, I may be second, or third, or fourth, or another position.

Many children in my class like to be the Line Leader. My teacher knows who should be first in line. Teachers know about being fair, and try to make sure each child is Line Leader now and then.

It's important to follow directions about who is Line Leader. My turn to be Line Leader again gets closer every time the children in my class walk in a line!


child_workingPretend Examples in School Work

  • For a child who interprets things literally, numerous "roadblocks" are encountered every day while doing school work. One such roadblock which Carol Gray helped a child with recently dealt with his literal interpretation of story problems in math (arithmetic). It was difficult for him to answer a question such as, "I have four apples. If I eat two, how many are left?" He DIDN'T HAVE four apples, and DIDN'T like to eat them, so how could he proceed? Carol helped him with the following Social Story:

Pretend Examples in School Work

My name is Dillon. I go to Franklin School.

Sometimes, I may have an assignment in math. I may have story problems. To do a story problem, children have to pretend. Pretend means it may not be true in terms of what I usually say or do. Pretending means using our intelligence to imagine what we would do to solve the problem.

This may mean we pretend to like foods that we really don't in real life, or that we pretend to like things or activities that we really don't. The good news about pretending is that I won't ever in my life have to really like to eat those foods, or really like those things or activities. I will try to pretend enough so that I can complete my work.

I can try to tell myself that to complete my work, I only have to pretend for a short amount of time.


  • The topic of the following Story is self-explanatory. As soon as you read it, you will be able to determine what this child's concern had been.

What Happens with Art When it Travels from My Mind to My Project?

My name is Catherine. I go to Sunshine Academy. Sometimes at my school we have art.

Sometimes, when children do art projects they discover that their project doesn't look EXACTLY like it does in their mind. My mind may be able to create things, but my fingers are still learning how to create those same things. So, until my fingers catch up with what my mind can do, it's important to be patient.

Patience is important in art. If a child can stay calm, they will be able to make a project that is closer to the one in their mind.

The neat thing about art is that it doesn't have to be "right" or "exact." If a child makes it, and tries their best, and follows the general directions, the way art works, what that child makes is okay!

Many great artists practice many years to learn how to match what they create with their fingers with the ideas and pictures in their mind. If I can learn to stay calm and continue to practice, I, too, will be able to make projects with my fingers that are closer to the ideas in my mind, too! It just takes time. This is okay.

*The child may also benefit from a similar Story explaining that their project will likely differ from the projects of their classmates, since the things they create in their heads are different. This is okay!

  • Frequently children with ASD expect things to be the same way that they first saw them. Such was the case with Tommy, who expected to find the overhead projector in the classroom bathroom--just as it had been the first time he went there! He refused to use the bathroom unless the projector was in there, causing problems when the teacher was in the middle of a lesson using the projector in the classroom. Further complicating the issue was his insistence that the projector was needed to keep the bathroom free of bugs. Carol wrote the following Story for Tommy:

AOK to Use the Bathroom Any Way

My name is Tommy. I am an intelligent second grader at Cottonwood Elementary School. Sometimes, I have to use the bathroom. This is okay.

Bathrooms need to have a toilet or urinal, and maybe sinks. Sometimes, when people need to find a place to keep something until they need it, they might place it in the bathroom. My teacher keeps her overhead projector in the bathroom when she is not using it to make more room in the classroom. It's okay to store an overhead projector in the bathroom, but usually most bathrooms do not have overhead projectors in them.

Sometimes, my teacher uses the overhead projector to teach the children. If she were to bring all the children into the bathroom where the overhead projector is, it would be too crowded! So my teacher brings the overhead projector into the classroom to use it.

It's okay to use our bathroom with the overhead projector in it. It's also very okay and intelligent to use our bathroom when my teacher is using the overhead projector with the class.

The custodians work very hard to keep our bathrooms clean. They use disinfectant to keep everything nice for the children. If the custodians notice bugs, like spiders, they might use bug spray. Bug spray, and other things that custodians have, are used to keep bathrooms free of spiders and things. People never use overhead projectors to keep an area free of spiders; it just would not work. If I should ever see a bug in the bathroom, it's okay to tell an adult. The adult may know how to use a tissue or toilet paper to get rid of the bug, or we may choose to use another bathroom.

*Most teachers are not going to encounter the exact problem that Tommy's teacher dealt with. However, our children may need similar Stories for a wide variety of situations. Simply changing the topic, and adapting the vocabulary and situation to accommodate your student or child's concerns, will help to produce a Story that helps the child to deal with a necessary change from his or her expectations.

applaudStories that Applaud:

  • As we consider writing Social Stories(TM), it is important to keep in mind what Carol Gray says: "Do keep in mind that at least 50% of all the Stories developed for any person should congratulate or applaud current skills/abilities/personality traits/ or concepts that the person does well." Here's how...

Awesome Respectful and Friendly Moves by Kurt!

This article is like an Award for Kurt. Adults at Maplewood have noticed times when Kurt makes the very best, most massively excellent choices about what to say and do!

What makes them MOST impressive is that Kurt listened and cooperated with others who had a problem to solve, even when he might have felt a little disappointed. That is very grown up!

One time, Kurt wanted a YoYoTM. It would have been nice to get the YoYo right away, but, there was a problem. They ran out of YoYos. They told Kurt about the problem. He may have felt a little sad or disappointed. He was also in control. He listened and cooperated, and soon he had his YoYo. The adults were so impressed with Kurt's maturity.

Another time, Kurt needed to put one of the books back at the Book Fair. This also may have been disappointing for Kurt. It would make many children feel sad. Once again, Kurt was in control. He listened and put the book back, with lots of respect for others. What a grown up and helpful response!

Respect at Maplewood is important. When Kurt shows respect to others, and stays in control, he's a Respect at Maplewood Team Player!

  • Carol Gray's explanation of the following Story: The following Story was developed to provide Julie with positive, written feedback, especially in light of the fact that several Stories requiring Julie to learn new concepts and skills were being developed at the same time. Here, I am taking a phrase and word that Julie hears often, i.e. "awesome", and describing what it means by using tangible images, for example, "...very big good, or more than 100% great". This is followed by a list of examples to add additional meaning to "awesome". While applauding Julie to build self esteem, by delineating the meaning of "awesome" this Story may have also added "punch" to the verbal praise of staff throughout the day.

Many People think Julie is AWESOME

Many people think Julie is awesome! They may enjoy reading and signing this paper.

Awesome is a word that means a very big GOOD, or more than 100% great most of the time. Awesome means that people are very pleased with MOST OF THE THINGS I DO AND SAY each day. Here are some reasons why people think I am awesome:

1. I work very hard.

2. I am a friendly person.

3. I am very intelligent.

4. I can be helpful to my teachers at Westside.

5. I have a nice personality.

If the adults who read my Story want to write other reasons why I am awesome on this paper, this is okay. They may look at the list and think, "That's a great list! Those would be my ideas, too!" and sign their name without writing any other reasons. This is also ok.

  • The following Story, "I Make Many Friendly Choices. This is Awesome" adds detail and builds upon the praise of the preceding Story. Here, the concept of being "awesome" is tied to friendly gestures. With Julie's relationship with two friends viewed as extremely important, we wanted to do everything we could to bring to Julie's attention those times when she "...really did the right thing", and how those decisions can help to build relationships with peers. As a side note, Julie was initially a little upset that Sarah had forged ahead and finished Julie's art project in her absence; this Story applauded Julie's consideration of the explanation quickly provided to her by her assistant. The aide explained Sarah's friendly intent, Julie listened, and went up to Sarah to thank her. What was most impressive was Julie keeping a negative outburst under control, and her willingness to listen to, and apply, the explanation of Julie's instructional assistant.

I Make Many Friendly Choices. This is Awesome.

My name is Julie. I make many friendly choices. This is awesome.

One day, Mark felt sad on the playground. He did not know the rules to the game. I went up to Mark and started to explain the rules. Then, Mark could play the game, too. That was a very intelligent, friendly, and caring thing to do.

On another day, Sarah helped me by making an art project for me. Sarah wanted me to have an art project like the other children in our class. Sarah cared about me, and wanted to do something to make me feel happy. I came back to school, saw the art project, and went up to Sarah and said, "Thank you." Saying "Thank you" is a very friendly and polite thing to do. It is an intelligent decision among friends.

Choices like these are friendly choices. Deciding to help others, and to thank others when they have helped you, is an intelligent thing to do. I am a person who has made some wonderful, friendly, choices.

Moms and dads LOVE to read Stories about the intelligent, friendly things that their child says and does. My Mom and Dad may like to read this Story.