Social Narratives

A story, paired with visuals, that helps a student understand a social situation.

When to use: 

  • Changes in routines. 
  • Learn new behaviors/skills. 
  • Student has difficulty focusing on relevant cues in their environment. 

How to use: 

  1. Identify the situation and target behavior/skill. 
  2. Collect baseline data to determine appropriate instructional goal. 
  3. Write the social narrative.
  4. Use concise language highlighting relevant environmental cues. 
  5. Use first person language (“I will sit in the chair”) or second person language (“Cory will sit in the chair”) 
  6. Vary the sentence types (descriptive, perspective, affirmative, directive, control) Include visuals appropriate for the student’s age and comprehension level. 
  7. Consider laminating Implement teaching procedure (see below section: How to teach.) 
  8. Monitor student progress through your data collection system and adjust as needed. 


  • Make sure the target behavior/skill is operationally defined. 
  • Make sure the goal is observable and measurable. 
  • Use language appropriate for the student’s age and comprehension. 
  • Avoid using a majority of directive sentences. 
  • Be conscious of how much information is on one page. 
  • Try to keep to one sentence, or one concept per page. 
  • When making adjustments, change a single variable at a time, and continue to analyze data to determine success or the need for another adjustment. 

How to teach: 

  1. Decide when and how often to read the social narrative with the student. They are most successful when they are a regular part of the student’s routine. 
  2. Use when the student is calm. 
  3. It is beneficial to read prior to an upcoming situation. 


  • Some stories are beneficial to be read at home as well! 
  • Social narratives can be read to the student by a peer too. 
  • Upon success, reading the story can be shifted from staff to the student, if they are a reader (use your data to guide these decisions). 
  • Frequency can be faded upon success (use your data to guide these decisions).