April is autism awareness month.
Day 5: Social stories
Social stories are largely recommended by professionals to explain situations or repercussions to people with Autism who may be upset or unable to cope with a change to routine or plan.
As a family we’ve never been a fan of the idea of social stories and Dylan has always seemed to understand that there are frequent changes to plans in real life. He may be unhappy with that but that’s just life right?
Anyway to try and keep things as calm as possible whilst we were on holiday last year I made a social story about swimming.
Although Dylan is nervous of the pool at the beginning, once in it he loves it and we struggle to get him out of it!
Dylan often struggles with the idea of the pool being there but not always being allowed to swim, especially right after eating.
He can get frustrated at seeing the pool but having to wait to get into it.
For Dylan its a bit like queueing in a shop; He can see the pool. He wants the pool. He’s finished eating. Why not??? 😣😣
The level of frustration and upset dylan feels makes it hard to pacify him. Verbally the words we say to explain this to him appear to get lost in the noise of the frustration inside his head. Particularly if he is seeking the pool for a sensory need to cool down he can struggle to process what we are saying to him. Dylan can get upset or angry and it can be hard to diffuse. This can be made worse if Josh or Grace haven’t eaten and they are allowed in the pool. If they can swim then why can’t he? I just doesn’t make sense to him.
To make the story explaining the issue we used Pictello; an app on his IPad which you can add photos, voices and text which can suit the story you are making.
This story about waiting a little while to go swimming after eating took about 4 minutes to put together. And as you can see, it works!
(sorry about the wind noise!)
It seems to be the combination of the instruction being auditory as well as visual, I think that the way that Dylan controls to speed of the pages changing and the information being given means that he can process the information within the story, especially if it is information which is not appealing to him.
There are thousands of social stories are available online on a huge variety of subjects from ‘Welcoming a baby sister home’ to ‘Death of a loved one’ or ‘Brushing your teeth’ to ‘Why we don’t hit’.
There are also a wide range of apps like Pictello to make an individualised social story to give an ongoing message.
For example; Dylan has been enjoying his daily opportunities to go to the cafe and practicing his shopping skills but there is a slight concern that the golden choice of drink for him is always Coke. Full fat, full sugar Coke.
Now, working in health care I am incredibly aware about how choices we make now with our lifestyles, diet and hobbies can affect our health, wellbeing and develop our habits for life. He can’t keep drinking this sugary drink everyday. It’s just not good for him.
Dylan likes all fizzy drinks but he will always choose the unhealthiest option. With his new focus on independent purchases Dylan is ordering his drinks without support which gives a free reign to buy whichever drink he prefers… yep, more Coke!
In an effort to manage this we have made a social story much like the one described above for not swimming straight after eating whilst on holiday.
When using Pictello, the programme relays the story where Dylan is given information to explain why he needs to understand a certain situation.
The Pictello programme is easy to use and the story took only a couple of minutes to make.
We’ll show Dylan the story on arriving at the cafe so it’s fresh in his mind and influences his choice of drink.
It gives clear boundaries and rules which are safe and controlled in a fashion the Dylan can process and take on board to maximise his experiences and avoid meltdowns.