http://www.storyboardthat.com/articles/e/transitions-social-story

Social Stories for Transitions and Unexpected Events

By Natasha Lupiani

Find this Common Core aligned resource and more like it in our Elementary School Category and other Special Education Articles!
For an overview of social stories, please see "Introduction to Social Stories".

Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), along with many other diagnoses, thrive on routine and structure. Routine is not always possible. Sometimes a transition or an unexpected event occurs and changes a routine. Incorporating social stories about common upcoming transitions and unexpected events can help prepare students and reduce anxiety for change.

Transitions

Anticipated Changes Day-to-Day Transitions Major Transitions
  • Holidays
  • Appointments
  • Field Trip
  • Moving to the Next Subject
  • Coming Home from School
  • Getting Ready for Bed
  • Changing Schools
  • Birth of a Family Member
  • End of the School Year

Anticipated Changes

A transition is typically an anticipated or expected change, which allows time for preparation. It is common for individuals with all degrees of ASD to struggle with transitions and change, big or small, especially in their routines. Anticipated changes allow for the creation of scenario-specific social stories to help prepare those individuals who benefit from advanced notice. Storyboard That is an easy, yet creative way to create a story for those specific changes.

Social Stories - Change in Routine

Example

Start My Free Trial

The example storyboard depicts a social story for a child who typically goes home from school, but has to go to an appointment instead one day. By reading this ahead of time with the child, they can mentally prepare for the change in their routine. Many situations can be prepared for ahead of time.

A social story may be beneficial for some of these events:


Examples of Anticipated Changes
  • School Event
  • Holidays
  • Field Trip
  • Special Event
  • Cancellation in Advance
  • Appointments
  • Teacher's Planned Absence
  • Shopping Trip
  • Special Guest

Day-to-Day Transitions

Everyday transitions are events that are almost guaranteed or expected to happen over the course of a typical day. Of course, unanticipated transitions are always possible, but for the most part, these are events that can be expected to occur on any given day, with some variances between weekday and weekend scheduling.

These types of transitions are more similar to a schedule or routine. Knowing what happens next can be very helpful when working and living with people who tend to be more rigid in their thought processes and dislike change. Social stories in storyboard format are a creative and useful way to create a visual style schedule for students to use.

Wake Up

Example

Start My Free Trial

The example depicts a basic wake up transition board. It prepares the individual for what comes next, while also serving as a daily reminder. Though this is a basic storyboard, it can be created specifically for the individual’s needs.

Here are some other examples where a social storyboard maybe helpful:


Examples of Day-to-Day Transitions
  • Getting Ready for the Day
  • Arriving at / Leaving School
  • Morning Meeting/Calendar/Welcome
  • Daily School Schedule
  • Weekly Activity Schedule
  • Specialist Schedule
  • Typical Weekend Schedule
  • Chore Routine/Schedule
  • Getting Ready for Bed

For even more examples of transitions, schedules, and routines, please see Schedule Boards and PECS Boards in the Special Education Category of our Teacher Resources .

Major Transitions

There are also larger scale transitions that are not every day occurrences, but are part of life. Major transitions can be difficult for many people, but especially for some people with special needs. People become accustomed to what they know, and it can cause a great stress when there is a major life change. Incorporating a social story ahead of the major change can help introduce the concept and assist in easing into the transition.

Major life transitions may not occur frequently, but they can have a large impact on one’s life. Fortunately, there is typically advanced notice of these events, allowing for proper preparation.

Moving to a New House

Example

Start My Free Trial

This social story example is for moving to a new home. It can help introduce the individual to their new house and the specifics of it. For actual use, it may be beneficial to use actual photographs of the new home. Actual photographs create a real life visual that the individuals can look out over and over again to gain familiarity. If they have some degree of familiarity prior to moving into a new home, it can eliminate some of the anxiety or stress when adjusting to the new home.

Below are other examples of major life transitions:


Examples of Major Transitions
  • First Day of School
  • Divorce of Parents
  • Remarriage of a Parent
  • Sibling Going to College
  • Friend Moving Away
  • Family Member Moving In
  • New Pet
  • New Doctor
  • Last Day of School


Unexpected Events

Students with ASD tend to have a more rigid thought process and struggle with spontaneity. Unexpected events can be difficult for them. We may not be able to warn our students when one of those events will occur, but that doesn't mean we can’t prepare them for the possibility of an event happening. Unexpected events can occur in all aspects of life, from home, to school, or out in the community.

Here are some examples of common events that can occur without prior notice:


Home Events School Events Community Events
  • Broken Appliance
  • Oversleeping
  • Damaged Toy
  • Substitute Teacher
  • Friend’s Absence
  • Last-Minute Schedule Change
  • Restaurant or Store Being Out of an Item
  • Long Waits at a Store or Restaurant
  • A Cancellation of Scheduled Event

Home Events

Circumstances can change suddenly, anywhere, but these changes frequently take place at home, since that is where people spend a large portion of their time. There are many things that can occur unexpectedly at home. An example of a major, unexpected event would be a power outage. Depending on where you live, a power outage may be an inconvenience or a serious problem, but can be even more stressful for a person with ASD. If an individual is taught what happens when the electricity goes out, they may be able to better process the event when it actually occurs.

Power Outage

Example

Start My Free Trial

Unexpected events can be upsetting or debilitating, but going over some common unexpected events may set the groundwork for more serious issues.

Other examples of unexpected events that could occur in the home:


Examples of Unexpected Events at Home
  • Damaged Toy or Important Object
  • Bathroom Accident
  • Broken Appliance
  • Physical Injury
  • Oversleeping
  • Sudden Storm
  • Snow Day
  • Illness
  • Death in the Family

School Events

Typically, school is a structured place where students know what to anticipate. All grade levels follow some type of schedule. Sometimes there are unanticipated changes or interruptions such as a fire drill. A fire drill is a somewhat regular occurrence in schools, but can still be over-stimulating, stressful, or even frightening. Students typically don’t know ahead of time when there will be a fire drill, but that doesn’t mean we can’t prepare them for one throughout the school year. A social story can remind students that they are still safe and what they should do prior to the stress of the actual drill.

Social Stories- Fire Drill

Example

Start My Free Trial

Social stories are most effective when used with individuals known personally by the storyboard creator, as not all students will benefit from prior preparation for the same events.

There are several common unexpected events that may occur in the school environment:

Examples of Unexpected Events at School
  • Substitute Teacher
  • Friend’s Absence
  • Last-Minute Schedule Change
  • Torn Paper
  • Technology Malfunction
  • Something Left at Home
  • Physical Injury
  • Illness
  • Commotion in Hallway

Community Events

Going out into the community is full of uncontrollable factors, resulting in a large potential for unexpected events. It is impossible to anticipate all of them, but it can be helpful to prepare students for some of the possible events. A traffic jam is a common, yet unexpected, occurrence when out in the community.

Traffic Jam

Example

Start My Free Trial

A social story can help teach that when there is a traffic jam, not much can be done, and that it usually improves after the cause of the jam is passed. Here are a few other possible social story ideas:

Examples of Unexpected Events in the Community
  • Restaurant Out of Food Item
  • Long Lines or Waits
  • Cancellation of Scheduled Event
  • Detours
  • Elevator or Escalator Out of Service
  • Passing Emergency Vehicles
  • Interactions with Strangers
  • Protest or Strike
  • Office or Building Closure



More Social Stories

If you are new to social stories, please read our introduction to social stories that covers the basics of social stories and how to make effective ones.

For a closer look, please see all of our social story articles:



Article Description Topics
Daily Living Skills Some individuals require explicit instruction on tasks that many of us take for granted. Make a personalized social story to engage the learner.
  • Hygiene
  • Housework
  • Food Preparation
Transitions and Unexpected Events The unknown is scary for everyone, but unexpected events and transitions can be particularly stressful for individuals with ASD. Help prepare your student or loved one for upcoming changes with a social story.
  • Day-to-Day Transitions
  • Major Transitions
  • Unexpected Events
    • Home
    • School
    • Community
Social Situations Social interactions can be very stressful for many people, with and without ASD. Make storyboards to show possible situations and outcomes.
  • Home
  • School
  • Community
Adolescent Skills As kids get older, their interests and needs change. Brooch potentially difficult conversations with a storyboard example.
  • Peer Pressure
  • Dating
  • Job Interview
Social Stories in the Classroom Social stories are also useful for whole group direct instruction of social and coping skills. Use a storyboard to address issues with both individuals and the class.
  • Coping skills when angry or frustrated
  • Social Cues
  • Class-wide behaviors


Help Share Storyboard That!

Looking for More?

Check out the rest of our Teacher Guides and Lesson Plans!


All Teacher Guides and Lesson Plans Ed Tech BlogElementary SchoolMiddle School ELAHigh School ELAForeign LanguageSpecial EdUS History and Social StudiesWorld History

Our Posters on ZazzleOur Lessons on Teachers Pay Teachers
http://www.storyboardthat.com/articles/e/transitions-social-story
© 2017 - Clever Prototypes, LLC - All rights reserved.
Want a Free Trial? Learn More about our Educational Edition     Start My Free Trial
Explore Our Articles and Examples

Teacher ResourcesTeacher Guides and Lesson Plans Ed Tech Blog
Business ResourcesAll Business ResourcesProduct DevelopmentNegotiationBusiness Frameworks
Film ResourcesFilm and Video Resources
Try Our Other Websites!

Photos for Class – Search for School-Safe, Creative Commons Photos! (It Even Cites for You!)
Quick Rubric – Easily Make and Share Great Looking Rubrics!
Prefer a different language?

•   (English) Transitions & Unexpected Events   •   (Español) Transiciones y Eventos Inesperados   •   (Français) Transitions et Événements Inattendus   •   (Deutsch) Übergänge & Unerwartete Ereignisse   •   (Italiana) Transizioni ed Eventi Imprevisti   •   (Nederlands) Transities en Onverwachte Gebeurtenissen   •   (Português) Transições e Eventos Inesperados   •   (עברית) מעברים ואירועים בלתי צפויים   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) التحولات والأحداث غير متوقعة   •   (हिन्दी) बदलाव और अप्रत्याशित घटनाओं