Monday, August 10, 2009

Using Social Stories to Lessen Back-to-School Anxiety

It's almost back-to-school time. My daughter could not be more excited, yet she is a bit scared too. I am glad that she will get to meet her teacher the week before school starts. I have prepared her for alot of school happenings by discussing things such as the bus, classroom, and playground. I am able to verbally tell her all of these things. But some children, especially those with disabilities or developmental delays, do not do well with just a verbal explanation. They need to get familiar with the environment by taking more than one visit to the classroom. They may also benefit from seeing pictures of the other children or toys within the classroom.

One way I help to prepare the two and three year olds I work with for preschool is to introduce social stories. Social stories are stories individualized to that child's situation and explain the steps involved in a positive manner. A social story for the first day of school may involve 6-8 simple pages explaining the events of the day. Reading this home-made book over and over to the child helps them to better know what will be happening which reduces anxiety.

I am not a good artist, but I think I have made some good social stories for my own child and other children. They don't care if you are a good artist. Usually, the kids like that there is a picture of them on the paper. I typically take 3-4 pieces of white typing paper and fold it in half. Then, I staple it down the middle to bind it like a book. On the first outside piece of paper, I draw a picture of the child and add a catchy title for the scenario. For the first day of school, the title could be something similar to "?Name Goes to School". Examples of how to make the page after that might be to draw a picture of the teacher next to your child. The caption could be "Mrs. ? is my teacher. She is very nice." The next page may be a picture of children at circle time with a caption such as "We sit in a circle on the floor next to our friends as we sing and listen to stories." Each page can list out other events, but remember to keep the captions positive. Don't say "We don't kick and hit our friends," but instead say "We use our hands and feet to play nicely with our friends."

Some of the social stories I have written for my daughter when she was younger (2-4 years old) have torn apart because she looked at them so many times. Her favorite ones were about potty training, birthday parties, and becoming a big sister.


  1. Wow, this is a great idea. Thank you - I'm discovering a wealth of information on this blog!

    -Ann (from - OpenID doesn't quite work right for me, which is why it's calling me Toddler Glasses)

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