Wednesday: Visual Supports for Social Skills

Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Happy Wednesday!! Today's guest post is by Jessica from Consonantly Speaking. Visuals and social skills are both very popular in the speech and language world. Using them together can be powerful! 

Over the past month, I have been visiting the Carol Gray Center in Zeeland, Michigan. If you ever have the chance to visit, you will be amazed at the wealth of resources available for children with autism. From DVDs to reference books to books written by people who have autism, you can check out up to seven items a week for a yearly fee of $10. I have taken advantage of the lending library many times, checking out items specifically related to visual supports for social skills. In this post, I will share some of the items that I checked out from the Carol Gray Center as well as some others that I have used over the years.

For those of you who are not familiar with Carol Gray, she is a visionary in the field of autism spectrum disorders. Carol is the creator of Social Stories and Comic Strip Conversations, two different visual story templates for children with autism to assist in use of appropriate social skills. She is currently the Director of The Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding in Zeeland, MI. Carol also has 22+ years of experience working as a teacher and consultant for students with autism spectrum disorders at Jenison Public Schools.

So what is a social story? Social stories follow specific guidelines and criteria including the child’s name, a specific situation to the child, social skill, and cues, perspectives, and responses of adults/peers. The objective of social stories should not be seen as negative or a way to change a person’s behavior, but a way to help the person gain understanding of a situation and social expectations/responses. Stories can be made to reduce anxiety prior to visiting a place that the person has not been to before, help a student learn specific vocabulary/conversation used in specific situations, and understand outcomes associated with specific behaviors. Some examples of social stories can be found on The Gray Center’s website:

Comic Strip Conversations are similar to social stories with a greater visual emphasis. In addition, these also emphasize conversational interactions between peers and adults. There are specific visuals and colors used within Comic Strip Conversations such as speech bubbles to show if a person or group is speaking, thought bubbles to show a persons’ thoughts or perceptions, colors to show various emotions, and text size to show the volume of a persons’ voice.
 Another resource that I borrowed from the lending library was Marcia Garcia Winner’s DVD on Social Behavior Mapping. Social Behavior Mapping discusses expected vs. unexpected behaviors based on others’ perceptions. These behaviors impact the way in which a person may be treated, viewed, how a person or peer may feel, and punishments vs. rewards. Social Behavior Maps are often created with the student on a large flow chart discussing expected and unexpected behaviors for a given situation. On each side of the map, the behavior is stated along with how it makes others feel, the result of the experience, and how the person feels about himself or herself.
At the end of the DVD, Marcia Garcia Winner discussed other resources she had created to assist with social skills. Another visual support included Sticker Strategies – Practical Strategies to Encourage Social Thinking. In this book, there are sticker labels with reminders of social strategies that can help people with autism throughout the day. Stick them on a notebook, note cards, and more! The latest edition comes with a CD to print and re-print these stickers! Some topics include asking for help, emotions, and organization.

Visuals do not always have to involve static displays. They can be flowing, moving, and involve audio – such as via video modeling. In video modeling, an instructor can video tape peers/adults interacting with each other, showing the appropriate/inappropriate behaviors, display nonverbal communication, and record verbal, conversational interactions between peers/adults. An instructor can also video tape a person with autism practicing appropriate social interactions.

There are many social story and socially conscious applications on the Apple Store market. Some of these include: Social Stories, I Create…Social Skills Stories, Touch Autism applications, Wonkido applications, The Social Express, Social Skills Builder, Social Skills Sampler, TherAd for Autism, Stories2Learn, Social Adventures, Social Skills, What Would You Do At School If…, What Would You Do At Home If…, How Would You Feel If…, Practicing Pragmatics Fun Deck, Hidden Curriculum for Kids, Hidden Curriculum for Adults, School Skills, iModeling Boundaries, Social Navigator, Mi-Stories, Sosh, and Life Skills Winner.

There are also many books available with pre-created social stories/scripts. Linguisystems has some great Autism & PDD books. Of course, Carol Gray created a book of social stories titled “The New Social Story Book”. Finally, there are some great visual supports for social skills in the Social Skills Picture Books by: Jed Baker.

 Of course there are other great websites out there that have various materials for purchase or for free to download and print related to social skills visuals. One great speech-language pathology website is where speech-language pathologists share materials including those related to social skills. There are many pre-created social stories uploaded on this website for free. Another great website to get visuals for free is You must have the Boardmaker Software to view and print the visuals.

I hope that this post was helpful for you to find various visual materials to assist with teaching social skills. Please feel free to visit my website at for more therapy ideas, materials, information, app/product reviews, giveaways, and more! You can also follow my updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!
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