Social Stories Explained; A Story About My Token Board
In my last blog post, Token Board Basics, I gave instructions and a link for a free token board. You might have printed it and wondered, "For my child is reluctant to try anything new, how do I teach her to use it?”
The answer is to use a Social Story. A Social Story is a special kind of narrative that explains something that is new to a child. In this blog, I am explaining how a Social Story works and providing A Story About My Token Board, so you can introduce the board to your child.
The What and Why:
Social Stories (SS) are a reliable way to introduce a new concept or explain a change in your child’s routine. SS are written in first person using the pronouns my and I. This brings the content right to them and gives them ownership; it is clear that this applies to him or her. Sentences are simple and constructed to accent positive ideas and results. I avoid putting in I will not or I cannot (unless absolutely necessary for ingrained negative behaviors) to bring the focus to the positive behavior that is desired. It ends with a positive affirmation with the desired feeling about the activity or change. SS can be one page or made into a book.
Show the Social Story page to your child and read it out loud to them. You may want to point to the words so they can follow along. You should read it even if they can which allows them to focus on the story and instead of decoding the words. Leave it accessible while they are doing the new task, by setting it nearby. You will probably need to read the story several times the first day, and continue as needed for a few days. If your child is a strong reader, they can read it after the first couple times, if they want to. This should be a stress-free support activity, so it is best not to require them to read it by themselves.
The first video shows me reading the Social Story, My Token Board, to a child before doing his school-work. I read it out loud slowly. The first time, I ad lib to give tokens, praise, reward cards and the reward. The story shown in the video is handwritten, however, I polished it up and added picture and is available for download here.
After reading the story, I usually have the child start doing the task if I have his attention and s/he is ready. However, in other circumstances, if the story is upsetting or the child needs time to adjust to a new activity or change to his or her schedule, wait a few minutes and read it again; and again, if necessary to prepare your child to accept it.
Note: The child in the videos is a preschooler and he is using the workbook, Summer Fit Activities by Active Planet Kids, Inc. He has had previous exposure to a token board with check marks, but not with tokens. I had read other Social Stories to him to introduce going to preschool and learning new activities at home, but no SS about token boards.
More on Token Board Use:
This next video shows how the student used his knowledge from the Social Story to continue his work while using his token board. He was motivated to start his work after his reward of candy and got started even before I offered his reward cards. This is fine; I just wove choosing the reward card into it as praise and he is motivated by it as well as a token. However, a good habit is to have the child choose the reward before starting the work, because it could end up being a distraction from the work already started.
If at any time, he would have become reluctant or confused about the tokens, I would have read the Social Story again, and I would also give him a token for listening to me read it. Even though he had tablet on his board, he requested going for a walk instead. I feel it is okay to change the reward, unless he is asking for something that I don't want him to have such as more candy when I did not offer that card again. Its okay to take reward cards out of the mix and offer a few at a time.
One reason why tokens work, is that they affirm good behavior without distracting. For some children who are focused on their work, I might put the tokens on the board myself, while giving praise. It depends on the activity and the child. For example, if it takes your child time to grasp the pencil, it would be better for you to place the tokens, so they can focus on the work and not get frustrated with repeated picking up of the pencil. Some kids need that micro-moment of movement to meet the sensory needs of their body.
Giving praise should be a mix of calm expressions and showing more excitement when giving the reward token. Examples of praise while giving tokens (or any other time):
I like how you are looking at your hand.
Great job writing the number 3.
I can see you are focused.
I like how you are working.
You are writing inside the box; great job.
Wow, you have 1,2,3,4 5 tokens! (point at each one) Now it's time for ____! Great Job!
And whatever unique words of encouragement motivates your child.
You got this!
By using Social Stories, you can introduce new ideas and what behaviors are expected. I recommend that you err on the side of reading a story too frequently instead of not enough. After you use a few SS with your child, s/he will learn to rely on them as a calm way to learn new things. I will continue to share Social Stories, positive behavior supports, modifying schoolwork ideas and how to deescalate an upset child.
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Do you know anyone who could use a story? If so, please share!
--Nancy Roop received a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Oakland University in April 2020. She researched developmental psychology, linguistics and reading education while studying creative non-fiction writing. She supported students who have autism for nearly ten years. She founded Developmental Texts and is currently writing her first book, The Aquarium with Alex the Storyteller. Its about a fifth-grade student who is passionate about writing stories for peers on the autism spectrum: real world, relatable and relevant.
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