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Social Stories


In our work as a GAL, a social story could be used in a number of ways e.g. to explain the role of the GAL, to help the young person understand the nature of the court proceedings/an expert assessment/particular views relating to contact etc. They are individually tailored to the child/situation. Their role is to help the young person with autism understand a particular issue with simple sentences and pictorial/visual prompts to reinforce the message.

They are designed to be used as a reminder of the factual information being communicated, so should be used on a regular basis with the young person and not just during the session between the GAL and the young person. You should leave them with the young person/carer to use regularly, to reinforce the message they are intended to communicate. The carer or young person should give an undertaking to review the material regularly. As the young person becomes familiarised with the message, their use can reduce in frequency.

You may need to meet the young person first to discuss the use of photos/pictorial images to plan the way forward with your social story. Are they happy with having their photo used/photos of their school/carers/parents etc? Alternatively you could use stock photos/clip art if you wish to keep the story less personalised, but again this would need to be assessed on an individual basis and in particular, remembering that many young people with autism have a very literal belief of what they see or are told. A cartoon e.g. of a courthouse might not communicate to them that the Judge sits in an actual courthouse so it is best to be aware of this.

If the social story is to be used on a regular basis to remind the young person of our role, you may wish to have it laminated to prolong its life. In addition for young children who do not yet read or other young people who have a co-morbid learning disability, a social story can be compiled of pictorial images with no text. Again it is individually tailored to the young person’s level of understanding.



Social stories are short descriptions of a particular situation, event or activity, which include specific information about what to expect in that situation and why.

Social stories have a huge range of applications, including:

  1. to develop self-care skills (eg how to clean teeth, wash hands or get dressed), social skills (eg sharing, asking for help, saying thank you, interrupting) and academic abilities
  2. to help a person with autism to understand how others might behave or respond in a particular situation, and therefore how they might be expected to behave
  3. to help others understand the perspective of a person with autism and why they may respond or behave in a particular way
  4. to help a person to cope with changes to routine and unexpected or distressing events (eg absence of teacher, moving house, thunderstorms)
  5. to provide positive feedback to a person about an area of strength or achievement in order to develop self-esteem
  6. as a behavioural strategy (eg what to do when angry, how to cope with obsessions).


They are individually written about a specific child/young person and the particular difficulty/situation they are experiencing. They are generally combined with pictorial images/photos to reinforce the message of the social story.

They are designed to be used on a regular basis to allow the young person to assimilate the information included and not just on a one-off basis. Their use can be reduced as the information is assimilated.