Recently, I’ve come across some upsetting “social stories,” and I’ve taken issue with how they’re being used to guide autistic children to be ashamed of being autistic and to behave as if they are more “normal.”
Originally developed by Carol Gray, Social Stories were intended to be a story with the autistic child as a primary character to help reduce anxiety about new situations.
When used well, they can be helpful for reducing anxiety by familiarizing autistic children with unfamiliar situations; however, people took Gray’s original approach and made “social stories,” or mass-produced, generic stories that taught children how to express emotions and how to behave.
The mass-produced stories dismissed the protocol for developing Social Stories and often subtly taught harmful values, like that impressing the teacher by remaining quiet was more important than asking questions for clarity.
Many of these ill-conceived, depersonalized stories, often shared in autism and therapy spaces, sent the message that an autistic child’s behavior and needs for accommodations were why other children were excluding them.
My grievances were layered and complicated, but they boiled down to:
- Autistic children should not be taught to be more “normal.”
- Autistic– or otherwise disabled– children should not be made responsible for other people’s frustrations with their differences.
- Mass-produced “social stories” should be actually pro-social and inclusive.
- Autistic children should not be made to feel like their needs for accommodations are a burden for teachers and parents.
- Autistic kids don’t need to learn that they have to earn acceptance or that it’s a virtue to ignore their own needs.
- True inclusion is about creating a culture that values and accommodates differences.
I originally published these on social media as “social stories,” but a wise reader pointed out that it would be better to call the stories something different so as not to disparage the original purpose of Carol Gray’s Social Stories. Even Gray herself has expressed frustration over the misuse of a tool she created to help autistic kids in a healthy way.
So, we’re going to call these stories intended for whole class use NeuroInclusive Stories, and when we make them, we will first publish them on social media, then upload them as free downloads on the site.
You can click here to download the printable PDF of Room for Us All, and the individual images are viewable below. You have permission to enlarge, print, share, reproduce, and display these stories, but not to edit the text or remove the URL. Please credit NeuroClastic when sharing them.
Update: Click here to download the story in Portuguese.