Using Social Stories™ with Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Mary E. McDonald, Ph.D., BCBA
Published in
3 min readApr 25, 2021


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Social Stories™ was originally developed by Carol Gray. Social Stories™ are stories that are written to help assist a student in a variety of social situations. Social Stories™ have been shown to be effective in improving social behavior in students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) across a variety of domain areas. Specifically, they have been shown to be effective in increasing appropriate social behavior while decreasing inappropriate behavior.

Developing a Story for a Student with ASD

It is important to develop a story that is very individualized. The story is written about the student and includes some information that makes the story personal to the student. Stories should provide the student with a story about a social situation that they either will be soon experiencing or are already experiencing. Sample stories could be about moving to a new town, having a new baby sister, or having to wait in line at the store. The specific topic is dependent on the current needs of the student.

The story is often developed by a teacher or parent but it is also possible for the student to be the author of the story or to be involved in writing the story with an adult. Once the story is written the story is read by the student or to the student and it is reviewed a number of times. For many students with ASD reviewing the story before experiencing the social situation may make it easier to then be in that situation. The story can provide them with information about the situation as far as what to expect and also what they can do or say in that situation. Stories can be provided using technology such as a tablet rather than the paper method (Boşnak, & Turhan, 2020) and some may incorporate clip art, photos, and or videos as well to engage the student.

Research and Future Directions in Social Stories™

Research has shown that Social Stories™ can be effective for students with ASD and that they often are most successful if paired with another intervention such as reinforcement or video modeling. Social Stories™ have been used to increase a variety of skills such as play skills, social initiations, conversation, non-verbal social behavior, and even decrease maladaptive behaviors. Specific higher-level skills have been addressed such as problem-solving and understanding emotions.

Further research is needed in a variety of areas in order to determine the future application of Social Stories™ (Sansosti, Powell-Smith & Kincaid, 2004). More research is also needed on Social Stories™ as a stand-alone intervention to determine the efficacy with students with autism. In addition, it will be important for research to focus on adolescents and adults with ASD as the majority of research is currently addressing the elementary-aged student.


Boşnak, Ö., & Turhan, C. (2020). Presentation of social stories with tablet computers in social skill instruction for students with autism spectrum disorder. Elementary Education Online, 19(4), 2161–2170.

Gray, C. (2010). The new social story book. Arlington, Tex. : Future Horizons

Sansosti, F. J., Powell-Smith, K. A., & Kincaid, D. (2004). A research synthesis of social story interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders. Focus on Autism and other Developmental Disabilities, 19(4), 194–204.

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Mary E. McDonald, Ph.D., BCBA

Professor @HofstraU, Researcher, Author, Autism Specialist, Behavior Analyst, and Speaker