Fact Sheet - Social stories

Therapist assists school boy with activity while parents watch on

Social stories - extended version

Social Stories™, comic strip conversations and social scripts are ways of helping children and adults with their social interactions.

  • A Social Story™ is a short story that uses special guidelines to describe a social situation.
  • A comic strip conversation uses drawings to show what happened in a conversation (such as what people said and what they were thinking).
  • A social script provides words, phrases, and/or questions that can be said in certain situations to help communication.

Social Stories™

Carol Gray developed Social Stories™ as a way of helping people on the autism spectrum to understand social situations. They describe situations or skills and include important social cues and other people’s thoughts and feelings. They often give people on the spectrum ideas about how to behave or respond. They can help to make difficult situations more predictable. This can help reduce stress and lead to better ways of coping. 

Comic Strip Conversations

Comic Strip Conversations (CSC) were also developed by Carol Gray. They use drawings to show what was said in a conversation as well as what people were thinking. This is a way of helping people on the spectrum to make sense of difficult social situations. They can be used to discuss and think about what happened in a conversation and to learn from this.   

Social Scripts

The terms Social Stories™ and social scripts are sometimes used for the same reasons but a Social Script provides the exact words, phrases and/or questions that should be said in a particular situation.

What does the research say?

Social Stories™

Social Stories™ are popular with teachers and parents. They are easy to write and can be tailored to individual needs. Some of the features of Social Stories™ match some theories about autism, such as helping with predictability, helping with Theory of Mind and helping with social interactions. Research about Social Stories™ has been mixed and more research is needed. They seem to be effective for some children, especially when they focus on just one behaviour at a time and are used just before the situation they are written for. They also seem to be helpful for children on the spectrum.

Comic Strip Conversations

There isn’t much research about Comic Strip Conversations. It is likely that a child’s language skills and age make a difference to how well they work. 

Social Scripts

There is limited research on the use of social scripts as well. Some research has found that they might be helpful in increasing speech in some situations. More research is needed.

In summary

While Social Stories™, Comic Strip Conversations and Social Scripts are popular and easy to use, there isn’t much research about how well they work.

Research suggests that Social Stories™ may be more helpful if:

  • stories target a single behaviour,
  • the target behaviour is concrete (e.g. simple positive behaviours or communication goals rather than subtle or complex social skills),
  • they are matched to the child’s language and thinking skills, and
  • the stories are read many times.

It is important to match the language and style of the story to the skills and interests of the child.

Practitioners and parents/carers can find detailed information and instructions for creating and using Social Stories™ in Gray’s (2004) Social Stories™ 10.0: The new defining criteria and guidelines.

(Reviewed in November 2016)