Social Stories For Teens: Empower Your High School Student With Special Needs

A high school classroom where the teacher is using social stories for teens to help students with social skills and communication.

From reminding children to brush their teeth to sharing toys, social stories are used as teaching tools at home and in the classroom. 

But social stories are not just for young kids. You can use social stories for teens too! 

Let’s look at a scenario that could happen in any high school classroom today. 

How Change in Classroom Routine Can Cause Behavior Issues

As Johnathan walked into the classroom, he quickly began to find his regular seat. His teacher greeted him, as always, and handed him a warm-up activity. 

This was his routine before the class lesson started.

Jonathan usually worked for a few minutes, and then his teacher began with English and then math. 

But today was different. Ms. Moody began with Math first instead of English.

Jonathan could feel his nerves spiking, his heart rate racing, and sweat on his brow beginning to form.

As Ms. Moody began her lesson in Math, she started to call on students to answer the problems on the board.

The noise of the students getting out of their chairs, walking to the board, and clicking pens together in their hands made him even more nervous.

He didn’t know what to do!

The fire alarm suddenly went off as some students went to the board.

Oh, that was it!

Jonathan was so uncomfortable and couldn’t hold it in any longer. It was so loud!

Ms. Moody quickly told the class to line up and head outside. Jonathan’s face said it all. He was frantic and feeling out of control.

He began to yell, scream, and throw his pencils and anything else on his desk. Then, finally, he stood up and charged toward Ms. Moody.

Ms. Moody bounced out of the way, and Jonathan turned his attention to the other students.

Ms. Moody thought quickly to keep all the students safe, including the disgruntled student. After some time, Jonathan calmed down, and the situation was over.

Do You Blame the Student? 

Have you seen or heard of this scenario? Maybe you were the special education teacher who had to de-escalate the situation.

Or you were the parent who received yet another phone call about the disruption of your high schooler in the classroom…for the 5th day in a row.

These situations are hard for all people involved. It may be tempting to blame the student, judging that he should have known better.

But let me paint another picture for you.

Jonathan is…

Would you perceive the situation differently? 

An individual with a disability, particularly autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or an intellectual disability, perceives the world exceptionally sensitively. 

Therefore, what a typical individual can ignore, these individuals cannot.

When someone with autism struggles to cope with everyday life, they act out the only way they know how, even if it means being disruptive or out of control.

That’s their way of communicating that they need your help to succeed in their environment.

Is There Hope for Older Students? 

As parents of high school students, you have hopes and dreams for them. But when you see your teenager struggling with social skills, what do you do?

Do you think…Is there hope for us? Will we be accepted? 

These are hard questions to have as parents.

As an educator and a first-time mom, I’m beginning to learn that no matter how old your children are, you always want the best for them. You want them to have a successful life.

I can’t tell you how often I have been at work and seen the faces of parents who were thinking that question but were too overwhelmed to ask. 

But! to answer this honest question, yes, there is hope. And I want to share one way to find that hope again. Let’s dive in!

What is a Social Story?  

The one strategy I am providing to you today is called Social Stories. Carol Gray developed social stories in 1990. She was a teacher in Jenison, Michigan, and had four students with autism. She created these social stories to better communicate with her students. 

A social story is a series of steps or directions either written, with visuals or sometimes both,

Each social story tells a “story” about how someone can act or respond in that particular social setting.

Using Social Stories With Teenagers and Young Adults at Home

If you wanted to help your son learn to tie shoes, you could provide pictures of a series of events to help him successfully learn to tie his shoes. 

This video shows a step-by-step tutorial for tying your shoes with some image examples you could use in a social story. 

Use their name in the story to make it more personal and meaningful. Teenagers love seeing their names in writing and used in stories. It’s empowering. 

Additional Social Story Examples include:

  • What to expect when you go to the grocery store
  • Where should you walk or sit in different locations
  • What you might see when going to different places
  • What you should or shouldn’t do in different situations
  • Navigating in a movie theater
  • Provide your child with information about changes to their schedule  

These stories are one way you can guide, strengthen, and support your high schooler toward a more meaningful life. 

Independence is everyone’s desire and dream. Social stories provide that outcome. 

Examples of Social Stories for Teens in the Classroom

Here is an example of a high school student’s school schedule. 

Orange Day Schedule

Today is Monday, January 16, 2023. Today is an orange day, which means…

  • I have English first with Ms. Moody.
  • Then Math with Mr. Smith
  • Chorus with Dr. Drey
  • PE with Mr. Collen
  • Lunch in the upper cafeteria
  • Then weight training with Coach Fry. 
  • After I attend weight training, I need to check in with Ms. Moody in room 1809 to tell her how my day went. 
  • After I talk to Ms. Moody, I will go home on the bus with my friends. 
  • Today will be a great day!

As you can see, this is an excellent example of how to teach an individual with a disability throughout their day to feel secure knowing what happens on an “orange day” at school. 

We all like to feel a sense of control, and our students and teenagers are no different. This short story also provides a sense of peace for students who might experience anxiety or fear during their day. 

This following example of a social story for teens allows the student to change his weekend schedule/routine. 

Changed Schedule

Today is Saturday, January 28, 2023. 

  • I will get up.
  • Brush my teeth.
  • Get dressed.
  • Go downstairs for breakfast. 
  • After breakfast, I will clean my dishes with soap and water and put them in the dishwasher. 
  • I will then move to the couch to watch tv. 
  • Today there is a change in my regular routine. 
  • Aunt Lee and Uncle Mike will be coming over for lunch today. 
  • I will not be going to swim practice at 12:00. 
  • Aunt Lee and Uncle Mike will arrive at our house at 12:30 to pick up Mom and me for a picnic at the park. 
  • We will have a good time at the park today! 

How Social Stories Will Help Your Young Adult

Do you see how simple yet effective these stories can affect your teenager? I hope you do because I have seen firsthand how these stories can transform any student to be more independent and successful throughout life.

These examples are only touching the surface. As the teacher or parent, you have the freedom to make these stories as simple with just pictures, sentences with pictures, or as complex as a written paragraph. 

Social stories can be ANYTHING! 

You can even use videos to model how to cope with one’s emotions or how to ride a bike. Everyone is unique; his social story should match their personality and strengths. 

If it helps your student or teen, that’s all that matters. 

I have seen various students improve their behavior and communication skills because they had a social story to guide them through an ever-changing day.

 We all like routine and can get disgruntled, like Jonathan at the beginning of this blog. 

Try a social story with your teen, be flexible, and don’t give up! I promise you; it will make a world of difference when this becomes a student’s new routine.

Share how you used social stories with a teen or young adult in the comments. 


Check out our STRIDE group classes for your teen today!


Teen participating in a S.T.R.I.D.E (Socializing and Taking Responsibility In Developing Excellence) session.
We developed a program specifically designed to enhance Social Skills!
We call it… S.T.R.I.D.E (Socializing and Taking Responsibility In Developing Excellence). Learn more today about our next session!


Additional Resources You Will Find Helpful

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Mary Grogan

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