Social Stories 201: Extinguishing Negative Behaviors
Way back in April, I wrote a post called Social Stories 101: Be Prepared. That post talked about the basics of social stories and how you can use them to help kids (with and without special needs) know what to expect in new or uncomfortable situations. As promised (thought not as soon as promised), here’s the follow-up to that post.
Social stories can also be used to extinguish negative behaviors. Here’s the catch, though…they won’t work when the child is in the middle of the negative behavior and they won’t work when the child has passed the point of self-control. Social stories need to be used BEFORE the behavior happens. I tend to set aside a time to review the stories with my students at the very beginning of our time together. If I’m sharing a story with a teacher or a parent, I might suggest that they read the story every day at the same time (breakfast, bedtime, centers, etc). I will read that same story over and over until the behavior either goes away or it’s evident to me that we need to try another tactic. This can be a week, a month, sometimes even the whole semester.
Note: These types of social stories are incredibly helpful and easy for RTI committees to use!
Here is an example of a story that I wrote at the request of my school’s administration for a child who was having repeated difficulties with keeping his hands to himself:
This particular first-grader had significant difficulties with impulse control and self-awareness. We also augmented this story, which was read to him at least once a day, with a strip of paper taped to his desk that simply said, “I keep my hands to myself.” The teacher could pass by his desk and tap the paper when she saw that he needed a reminder. She never even had to stop teaching the others and didn’t need to draw negative attention to the child.
The next story is a little gross, but working with kids is a little gross from time to time. Ask anyone who spends time with kids. I promise you they will confirm this fact & might even tell you it’s a good thing they are so cute…
Over the years, I’ve worked with lots of nose-pickers. Most of these are my younger students who just haven’t grown out of it yet. This story was written specifically for an older student on the Autism spectrum who did not have the self-awareness that it wasn’t an appropriate thing to do. Unfortunately, the technique was not successful for him, but I’ve used this social story with other students since then and they have been able to extinguish the behavior just by having the subject brought to their attention in a non-threatening way. I never dreamed I’d put my Master’s degree to use this way, but here it is…the nose picking social story.
Disclaimer: All of the images on these social stories are copied & pasted from Google images. I don’t have copyright on any of them. These are samples of social stories that would be used for personal and educational use, not for distribution or sale. Therefore, as much as I would like to, I am not uploading these Word documents for free download.
The previous post about social stories gives you some insight in how to write stories with the child as your co-author. Here are a few basics that I covered in that post as well as some other suggestions:
- Write the story in “first person” to make it easier for the child to process for himself.
- Use the story as a tool, not a punishment. Don’t react to the situation, but rather be proactive – planning ahead and reading the story outside of a time when the behavior is being demonstrated.
- Keep the story handy. When you see the child might need a “refresher,” make it available, but don’t force it. It’s possible that just seeing the graphics will serve as a reminder.
Here’s the general format that I use for writing a behavior extinguishing story. This is just the way I usually do it, not the only way! I don’t always stick to this formula, but it tends to work this way. Do what works and feels comfortable for you and your students…
I want to hear from you! How do you write social stories? Do you have success stories? Have you found another way to use them besides encouraging/discouraging behaviors?