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The Do’s & Don’ts of Social Stories

How Social Stories Can Support Your Complex Learner

Katy Orlowski, MS CCC-SLP

Social stories are one of our favorite and most frequently used visual supports at Wolf.  We use them for a number of reasons, including to support kids through difficult situations, to prepare them for something new, or to teach them about themselves and others! 

A good social story uses accessible language as well as personalized formats and visuals to match an individual’s processing style.  Social stories can be colorful and elaborate but they can also be as simple as a checklist.  They are useful for our students of all ages.  

Here are two Wolf School examples:

The first is a personalized fill-in-the-blank format for a change in a student’s schedule.  A familiar format can help them decrease anxiety by knowing their questions will be answered and they can refer to them whenever they want reassurance.  

The second is a slideshow about a field trip for the whole classroom. All students can benefit from a preview of something new and can even help reassure each other!

When making a social story for your child, here are some important considerations. 


  • Do use social stories for support, not for compliance.
  • Do personalize it to your child. Does your child need pictures, photographs, or videos to help them understand language?  Do they get visually overwhelmed if there are too many words or pictures on a page?   
  • Do be as specific as possible. Include who will be there, when it will occur, what strategies will be available, and what will happen when it’s over.
  • Do use literal and clear language.  Language is especially difficult to process when someone is anxious or the information is unfamiliar.    
  • Do have your child be your co-author.  Write the story with them so they truly feel it is about them and that their concerns and input are valued.  They may also ask questions that will help you know what information needs to be included.
  • Do always leave a space at the end to jot down any questions that come up.
  • Do give examples of how to self-advocate. For example, “I can say, “I need a break!” or “It’s too loud!”  Practicing phrases ahead of time can help during times of stress.

The internet can be a great place to find social stories, especially about teaching kids about their own learning styles.  Searching for “neurodiversity-affirming social stories” can lead you to some great resources.  One of my personal favorite creators is “Neurowild”, a neurodivergent Speech Language Pathologist who has many materials that are appropriate for all ages about different learning styles, diagnoses, and helpful strategies.

However, it is important to be very cautious about social stories you find online.  Many of them are made with the purpose of increasing a student’s compliance and not to support.  


  • DON’T  use social stories that tell someone what to do. (Example: “I will fold my hands on my desk.  I will not fidget.”)
  • DON’T use social stories that tell someone what to say. (Example: “When someone says “How are you?” I will say “Good, how are you?”)
  • DON’T  use social stories that tell someone how to feel. (Example: “I will do all of my work and I will feel happy!”)
  • DON’T use social stories that make kids responsible for how other people feel. (Example: “Mommy feels happy when I am calm.”)

Social stories are a fun and easy way to support your Complex Learner.  They are one of the many tools to help your child process information and feel confident in their ability to do new and challenging things.   For specific information on what types of social stories would best support your child, contact their Speech Language Pathologist!

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  1. REPLY
    Debra Sanders says

    This was a terrific blog post! I say that as a retired preschool teacher with 25 years in the classroom, teaching mostly 3 year olds. More educators need to know the appropriate way to use social stories. Thank you for this concise, easy to understand explanation.

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