Monday, October 26, 2015

Using a Social Story: Going to McDonald's

I have always had success using social stories with preschool children.  Today, I am going to share with you a social story about going to McDonald's.  Believe me, this is NOT my favorite dining establishment.  Chances are, if you have kids, you are going to be visiting here once or twice. 

What are social stories?

Social stories are text and picture combinations that describe social situations.  They were first developed by Carol Gray in the 1990's.  She is an educational consultant and a former teacher.  Social stories were originally created for children with autism spectrum disorders. They can be used by anyone who needs assistance in a social area.

How do you use social stories?

I start by determining what a child might be having difficulty with in daily situations or during the family routine.  These stories work well if you have a child who becomes anxious with change or transition.  The stories help children predict what will happen in new situations. The stories tell them what is expected of them.  The stories should be read immediately prior to the event.  For example, I would read this Going to McDonald's story before leaving the house to go out to eat. 

Why do social stories work?

If you were going to visit a foreign country, I am sure you would do some research before jumping on that plane. You might purchase guide books, ask friends about their experiences, or consult Google.  You would want to know what the hotel looks like. You might have questions about using the public transportation system.  You might even learn key phrases in the native language. A social story works in the same way.  The world is full of new experiences for children.  As adults we sometimes become frustrated when children do not "behave" out in public.  Our job as parents and teachers is to teach children how to interact appropriately, not punish them for not understanding. 

How do you write a social story?

Social stories should be short.  I like to keep mine to about 10 pages.  Young children have short attention spans, so keeping it simple and concise is a must.  Carol Gray suggested a ratio of one directive statement (telling what the child should do) to 2 other types of descriptive statements.  The ratio keeps the story from sounding like a list of rules.  Remember, this is a story not a manual.

I like to take photographs of the actual location or setting.  You could just as easily use clipart or stock images from the web. 


Are you ready to make your own?

If you don't feel like going to McDonald's with three kids and taking pictures (like I did), please go ahead and use the book I created! Just print off this pdf file.
I suggest making the pages durable.  You could laminate each page, but I find it easiest to use page protectors.
Staple it along the side.

Cover the staples in two layers of duct tape.  This will keep the staples from scratching and will add to the durability.

What the Research Says:

  • Children with autism spectrum disorders showed an increase in social behaviors when their teachers used social story interventions.  Skills targeted in the studies were: sportsmanship, conversational skills, and joining peers in activities.
Rhodes, C. (2014).  Do social stories help to decrease disruptive behavior in children with autistic spectrum disorders? A review of the published literature.  Journal of Intellectual Disabilities, 18(1), 35-50.

Sansosti, F. J., Powell-Smith, K. A. (2006). Using Social Stories to Improve the Social Behavior of Children with Asperger Syndrome. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions. 8(1), p43-57.
  • More information regarding the specific ratio of directive statements to descriptive statements can be found in Carol Gray's work.
Gray, C. A. (1998). Social stories and comic strip conversations with students with Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism. In E. Schopler, G. B. Mesibov, & L. J. Kunce (Eds.), Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism? (pp. 167–198). New York: Plenum.

Check back for more social stories: Going to the Grocery Store,  How to Eat at a Restaurant,
Going to the Dentist, and more!

What are some situations your child might benefit from having a social story?

 Want to see where I link up each week? Visit here!


  1. So interesting and helpful. Thanks for sharing at Inspire Me Monday link party. Have a wonderful day!

    1. Thank you! I hope you can use this idea with someone you know!