Let’s CHAT about Hyperlexia: Social Narratives

Feb 15, 2021 | Blog

Social narratives, frequently known as “Social Stories,” are an extremely helpful tool when introducing a new scenario, elaborating on expectations, teaching about emotions, or providing scripts for internal monologues.  

Ms. Carol Gray is a leading expert regarding social stories and their effectiveness. While she frequently refers to how they help autistic children, they are extremely helpful for all HxLs because of the nature of their instruction – written language! Her website provides information on the history of Social Stories and suggestions on how to write your own! 

The main points to consider when writing social narratives include:

  • Use first-person language  
    • Rather than writing “Tommy will sit at Circle Time,” write “I will sit with my friends at Circle Time.” 
  • Use direct and positive sentences structures  
    • Rather than writing “I will not talk during Circle Time,” write “I will use Whole Body Listening at Circle Time.” 
  • Use specific language 
    • There are thousands of pre-written social narrative examples online. However, social narratives are more useful when written specifically for the individual reader, with personally relevant names, directions, and pictures. 

Social narratives can be useful when introducing a new activity or expectation. For example, if the HxL is going to a new school or going on a plane for the first time, it will be very helpful to write a social narrative about what they might see, what they can expect, how they are expected to behave, who they might see, etc. This social narrative should be introduced and read as often as needed prior to the new event occurring. This will give the HxL time to learn and process an upcoming change, and prime them for what to expect. When writing social narratives for this purpose, it is best to use real pictures whenever possible! 

Many HxLs are very empathetic, responding to others’ emotions despite not always having the language to do so verbally. Similar to their decoding skills, we can use their empathy as a tool to encourage desired behaviors when writing social narratives. We might wrap up a social narrative about sitting at Circle Time with sentences like, “my teacher will be proud of me for staying in Circle Time and will be happy that I listened with my whole body!” 

As we know, many HxLs learn and use language through scripts. If they do not have the scripts to talk or think to themselves, they may not have the means to problem solve, self-sooth, regulate, identify feelings and emotions, etc. Another way we can use social narratives is to provide the language scripts to help them talk through these processes. We can write a social story about feeling angry, describe what that might feel like inside, provide scripts on how to express that feeling appropriately, and provide steps in order to calm our thoughts and bodies. These social narratives can be introduced when the HxL is regulated and engaged in reading, and may be presented later as a way to calm, soothe, or redirect in heightened moments.   

While you can find thousands of pre-written social narratives online, it is much better to write a custom social narrative specifically about the HxL and the scenario they are about to experience. You may even include pictures of your HxL to encourage engagement and increase comprehension! 

Here are some resources for you to use as inspiration when writing your next social narrative! 

Snapshot from TouchAutism’s “Conversation” Social Story