Carol Gray, a consultant for people with autism, created two interventions using visuals to teach social skills. One of them is called Social Stories and the other is Comic Strip Conversations. Using story and comic strips as methods to teach social skills can provide time to reflect and imagine various social scenarios, what others are feeling, and how to respond. These methods use language that children with Autism can process more easily because scenarios are framed more concretely and are less abstract. It clarifies unsaid needs, wants, and rules during situations when people around them are saying things indirectly. At first it may seem simple to creatively draw and write social scenarios out but it is very detailed oriented and structured process that requires a lot of logic and critical thinking, as well as mindfulness of the reader’s perspective.
A Social Story is a story that is written with each sentence categorized as either a Descriptive, Directive, Perspective, or Affirmative sentence. Descriptive provides background information about a situation or problem. Directive tell the child how to respond. Perspective describe the reactions of others of what the child does. Affirmative helps the child to remember key lessons and what’s important. These sentences are used to explain the context of specific situation and what to expect and why. Writer gathers a lot of information about the specific situation that is relevant to the reader and writes it in the first person and in a positive and objective way. The stories need to have a beginning, middle and end and be as accurate and specific as possible and have no more than one directive sentence. There’s a lot of rules to follow which makes it tedious but intriguing. I like how the structure provides a crafted technical skill that can be repeated easily to solve challenges for various situations and people. The National Autistic Society, Carol Gray’s website and book all explain the Social Story creation process in much greater detail.
Comic Strip Conversations are stick figure comics that have emotions color-coded in the dialogue and different types of speaking bubbles to illustrate when people are interrupting or listening, speaking in unison, yelling or whispering. This PDF illustrates how it works and the National Autism Society explains briefly how to use them.
You can read more about Carol Gray’s background on her website as well as see what other publications she has made or even request a workshop from her. Her research and development of these methodologies is such an inspiring and helpful discovery.