Yes, you read the title correctly. Just like the basic subjects in school – reading, writing, spelling, math, science, social studies, etc – behavior must be taught. A child may not need help in social studies, but a lot of extra help in math. The same idea applies to behavior. For instance, a child may be a natural speller, but need extra help learning a specific behavior or behaviors. Some children can hear a rule or expectation once and follow it, while others need a significant amount of extra help in this “subject.”
How do you teach behavior?
One tool that can be used to teach behavior is called a Social Story. According to the Social Story creator, Carol Gray, a Social Story is a story designed to “share accurate social information in a patient and reassuring manner that is easily understood by its audience.” She also notes that while the initial goal is not to change behavior, “an individual’s improved understanding of events and expectations may lead to more effective responses.”
A Social Story can be in the form of a single writing, a book, a photo book or a short movie. Many topics can be addressed in a Social Story, depending on the needs of the child. Topics may include being the line leader, going to the bathroom, personal space, homework time, direct instruction time, behavior out on the playground, at the park, dinner time, sharing, bed time, etc; it really depends on the area in which the child is struggling.
During my time as a public school Special Education teacher of elementary school students, I used the Social Story to teach appropriate behaviors to several of my students, and they experienced success. Other Special Education teachers I worked with used them as well and also found them to be effective. However, Gray also mentions that the Social Story can be used for people of all ages, backgrounds and cognitive ability levels. For example, Social Stories have been written to help people understand more mature topics such as war, puberty, menstruation, etc.
All the information needed to help you create a Social Story for you child or children can be found on Gray’s website. You may find that following Gray’s formula for Social Stories is exactly what you need, or you may need to modify it somewhat to meet the specific needs of your child.
If your child needs extra help with behavior, while your child’s school and the Social Story are great resources, there are also local behavior therapists with which you may want to consult. You can find local behavior therapists in the New Orleans and Northshore areas in The Therapy Directory of Psychology Today.
What are you going to create a Social Story about for your child?