Helping children understand the pandemic



Social stories, designed for kids with special needs, can also help preschoolers

Social stories, designed for kids with special needs, can also help preschoolers


It's hard for young children or kids with special needs to grasp the changes COVID has wrought in our lives, and our explanations don't always make sense to them. If your preschooler can't understand the importance of wearing a mask or why friends are no longer accessible, consider using a social story to help them grasp the new rules.

Social stories include simple examples of life events from the learner's point of view, reinforced with pictures. Research has shown that this method helps children learn positive behaviors and understand how to behave in social situations. Occupational therapists and teachers use social stories for a wide range of situations, from meeting new friends to navigating the school cafeteria.

Read More: 4 tips nurture kids' literacy and love for books

Social stories addressing the pandemic are available for free online. 

You will find other illustrated stories covering issues like riding the school bus, why my school is closed and others. 

You might want to adapt an existing story to your own situation. Intervention specialist Jack Hans offers guidelines for using the method successfully.

Compose the story from the child's perspective. Statements should use “I,” or if your child has trouble understanding the concept of pronouns, use the child's name.

Include pictures. Photos of your house, family, and community are ideal and can easily be embedded in the text. Otherwise, drawings are second best.

Specify appropriate behaviors. Describe actions in the form of “I will” or “I can”, to help the child incorporate self-talk in real life.

Read the story together multiple times, both before going into life situations and afterward, for reinforcement. Lamination preserves the pages for frequent use.

Don't use a social story in response to negative behavior. You don't want reading the story to be seen as punishment, which only reminds the child of mistakes made.

Avoid describing negative behaviors in the story. Rather than “I won't take my mask if I'm close to other people,” the story should state “I'll keep my mask on around others.”



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