Write your own Successful Social Stories!
Hello families on the spectrum. We are all in this journey together, and you probably agree with me, that it is about the journey, not the destination! So, let us try to learn how to enjoy the ride 🙂 .
My name is Ola Ghoneim and I am a proud mama of a 25-year-old wonderful young man with autism. His name is Zeyad. I am also happened to be an educator. My philosophy in teaching has always been “If they cannot learn the way we teach, then we should teach the way they learn.” However, as an educator, and most importantly as a mom, Zeyad taught me how to fully apply this quote and help him learn! So, let me share with you here how I was able to help him prepare for and enjoy many events in life. The day before any event in his life, I would write a customized social story for him of what is GOING TO HAPPEN! I answer all his unspoken questions. I provide him with as much details as possible, so he feels in control. I would give it him in advance, and he would read it 100+ times, and he feels prepared. The keyword for success here is ‘IN ADVANCE”.
I am fully aware that you can buy generic social story books. I did too, and I found many of them are exceptionally useful. However, it is generic! It is not your story. It does not have you child’s name on it. It is not exactly in your child’s level of communication. It does not have your own specific details.
So, back to my title, one size does not fit all! You should probably do it yourself. I did too, and wrote 400+ successful stories between 2004-2021. I built a huge credibility with Zeyad! He believes in these stories now because they work. He loves to hear the sound of the printer printing in my home office. He also loves hearing me shouting proudly get it from the printer Z, it is a new social story for you With eyes full of excitement and comfort at the same time, he reads every word, and every line. He reads it and reads it till he almost memorizes it. Then, on the day of the event he takes the story with him, show it proudly to other people, and witness that the story is now real and what was going to happen, actually happened! He knew it in advance and he was prepared
Examples I have written during these years: A visit to the hospital to see a new baby, doing EEG on my brain, piano recital show, my new school in San Diego, mom’s surgery day, the quiet song, moving to Egypt, moving back to the USA, going out of town on Spring Break, Carolina kids camp, fireworks on the 4th of July, being polite, hurricane Irene, Nanna is coming to visit us, going to Las Vegas/Malaysia/Legoland/Niagara Falls/Virginia Beach/Disneyland/Paris, rules of my school, a visit to mom’s work, holiday party at our house, mom and dad are going out of town, a new dentist appointment, I have a new doctor in Connecticut, my new job at the library, my birthday party at Ice Town, relaxing days, I have an email now, I have a new iPhone, snowstorm and losing electricity, trying a Japanese restaurant, and many more!
Here are the FIVE Ps, which you need to include in your DIY social story:
Make sure you always personalize your story, tell facts not opinions, be proactive, include as much details as possible, use alternatives if the plan is not confirmed yet, encourage positive behaviors and be proud of yourself and your child!
Here are two examples, a very recent one in 2021, and one back in 2004 (when my son was just 9 years old). Hope these two provide you with some insights on what you could do with your own child.
Example 1: Getting my COVID-19 test
My name is Zeyad. I and a student at Chapel Haven SAIL program. I live in my own apartment, and I enjoy spending time with my friends and staff in the SAIL program
🙂 (Personalized start)
Coronavirus is a virus or a germ that can make people very sick. Sometimes people call the coronavirus, COVID-19. I am doing a very good job keeping myself safe and healthy by wearing my mask, and washing my hands with soap and water. I also use hand sanitizer when there is no soap and water around. (Facts not opinions)
Sometimes, I need to get a COVID-19 test to make sure I am safe and healthy. When it is my turn to take the COVID-19 test, my mom, dad or the SAIL program staff will let me know, and I can add the appointment on my phone. I will go to a pharmacy to get the COVID-19 test. I will wear my mask and wait in the car till it is my turn to get the test. The nurse will ask me what my name is and my date of birth. I will answer all the questions by myself because I am a big boy. (Proactive and prepared)
The nurse will ask me to take my mask off, then put a swab inside my nose. I will stay still, and I can count 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. I can close my eyes too if I want. It might tickle a little bit, but it will not hurt. When the nurse is done, I will put my mask back on, and the COVID_19 test is now done. We will go eat ice cream after getting the COVID-19 test 🙂 (Positive behaviors)
I might need to stay in my apartment till the results of the COVID-19 test is back. I can use my computer or listen to music. I can eat or drink my favorite meals after taking the COVID-19 test. I will continue to wear my mask, and wash my hands after getting the COVID-19 test. (Proactive)
I am happy I am getting my COVID-19 test because the test will tell me I am safe and healthy, and my family and friends around me are safe and heathy too. Mom and dad are always very proud of me. (Pride)
Example 2: Going to the movie theatre
My name is Zeyad. I and a student at Ephesus Elementary School. My mom and dad like to watch movies. I like to watch movies sometimes too 🙂 (Personalized start)
On the weekend, we will all go to see a movie in a movie theatre. A movie theatre has many seats and one big screen. Many people can watch the same movie at the same time. (Facts not opinions)
On Saturday March 20, 2004, I will go with mom and dad to see a movie in the movie theatre. We will go in mom’s van to the movie theatre. My dad will hold my hand when we wait to buy our tickets. Other people will buy tickets too. I can buy popcorn at the movie theatre. (Proactive and prepared)
When we go to the movie theatre, I will sit with mom and dad. I will watch the movie. I can eat my popcorn and drink my soda when I watch the movie. I will be quiet at the movie theatre. I will watch the movie till I see THE END on the big screen. I will leave the movie theatre with mom and dad. We will eat ice cream after watching the movie 🙂 (Positive behaviors)
Going to the movie theatre is fun! Mom and dad are very proud of me. (Pride)
Who is going? Mom, dad and Zeyad
Where? To the movie theatre
Why? To watch a movie
When? On Saturday March 20, 2004
Let me assure you that your first story will take about an hour to figure out what to add and what to leave out. Do not be discouraged! From this point forward, the story will take you 10 minutes or less to develop, and save you hours of uncertainty, anxiety, aggressiveness, mood swings, and so forth!
Remember one size does not fit all. So, do it yourself. I know you can 🙂
Ola Ghoneim (Zeyad’s mom)