Social Narratives 101

Social Narrative TeachTownEvidence-based instruction in the world of education, particularly as we discuss special education, plays a critical role in improving student outcomes. Social narratives are one example of an evidence-based practice that can be utilized to teach social situations to learners with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Social narratives have been documented to assist in addressing behavior challenges, learning coping and social skills, working through interpersonal interactions/issues, practicing conflict resolution, and understanding new perspectives. These are only a few examples of the uses of a social narrative.

They are a versatile and adaptable tool that can be used to meet the needs of a variety of different situations that may arise for a learner with ASD.

How do social narratives work?

Social narratives detail a social situation that the learner may soon encounter. The narrative showcases applicable cues in the upcoming event and provides samples of different responses the learner can engage in. Social narratives are typically short, concise, and from the learner’s perspective.

Educators often use social narratives to help learners adjust to changes in their typical routines so they may anticipate upcoming events and adapt their behavior accordingly.

For example, Kristina Cracknell, a BCBA and previous teacher, shares:

“In my classroom, we used social stories often. I especially liked to use them for novel, but important, events like tornado drills, special visits, and field trips to help students know what to expect. We used social narratives to teach what happens during a fire drill at the beginning of the year, and then we would revisit as needed as the year progressed. Once, a student joined my class later in the year, and we had a fire drill before I had an opportunity to pre-teach this event. This student was understandably distressed by the sudden alarm bells! Upon return to the classroom, I reviewed the social narrative with the student to help explain the event. I also reviewed the story with the student periodically and kept visuals from the story in the emergency bag we took with us during a fire drill. The next time we had a fire drill, they knew they could cover their ears, and moving quickly from the classroom would mean they could get away from the loud noise faster. Now that the student was prepared, they were able to use what they learned and get to the door right away.” 

Following the use of Kristina’s social narrative of a fire drill, the students knew what routines to follow and what to expect the next time there was a fire drill in the classroom. Through the use of these social narratives, learners with ASD receive concrete instruction to help them to better understand the social standards in the upcoming event.

How to use social narratives in your classroom:

When implementing social narratives in your classroom, the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders recommends the following 10 steps:

  1.  Identify the social situation: Utilizing information from a student’s IEP, you can work with a student’s family and/or educational team to determine a target skill or behavioral change.
  2. Define the target behavior or skill: Once the target skill or behavioral change need is identified, the skill then needs to be defined so that target behavior is both objective and measurable.
  3. Collect baseline data: Over a three to five-day period, collect baseline data on skills that the student currently has prior to introducing the social narrative.
  4. Write the social narrative: Write the social narrative using language that is easy for the student to comprehend using first or second-person points of view.
  5. Choose the appropriate length of the story: Decide on the number of sentences that appear per page based on the current level of the student.
  6. Include photos, picture icons, or hand-drawn pictures: Include visual aids in the social narrative to engage the learner.
  7. Implement the social narrative: Introduce the social narrative to the student as part of daily instruction. The teacher can read the social narrative to the student, or they can encourage the student to read the social narrative aloud or to themselves.
  8. Monitor learner progress: Together with the student’s educational team, collect data for a minimum of two weeks to measure progress towards the target skill following the introduction of the social narrative.
  9. Review data and modify the social narrative if necessary: Following a review of the data, make adjustments to the narrative as necessary. Ensure to retrain staff on any changes made to the narrative to ensure the efficacy of delivery. Continue to monitor and collect data following changes.
  10. Address generalization and maintenance of learned behavior or skill: Generalization techniques can be integrated by including other individuals, settings, timeframes, and similar behaviors. If a student begins to regress, a social narrative can be reintroduced as needed.
Example of  a social narrative using TeachTown:

Comic strips are one example of a social narrative. See one of TeachTown’s comic strips from its Social Skills solution below.

TeachTown Social Narrative

Please keep in mind, all social narratives should be individualized according to the students’ needs to increase efficacy and reach the target skill and/or behavior change.


National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders. (2010, October). Evidence-based practice brief: social narratives. Retrieved January 15, 2022, from





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