Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, reading and story-telling is a fun and important way to connect with your child. Having an ASD son or daughter is a special experience where stories may impact them beyond anything you could imagine! In fact, reading and story-telling can serve many important functions for your special needs kiddo, in addition to just being a fun thing to do. (Even though having fun is a big enough reason on its own!).
Children on the spectrum often think in very different ways from neurotypical children and can struggle with understanding everyday activities such as going to school or eating at a restaurant. Stories can help! Decades ago, a teacher and autism mom, Carol Gray developed ‘social stories’ that help individuals with autism understand what is happening and why it is occurring through simple chronologically described text and pictures (read more here: https://carolgraysocialstories.com/)) These stories help ease anxiety and provide a guide for the ASD child. Going beyond the ‘social stories,’ to fictional pieces, these stories can aid your child in the very same way — providing context for and guideposts to certain social scenarios and situations, such as what to do when you meet a new friend on the bus or going to dance class.
There are many unique challenges that children on the spectrum face, including appropriate social skills, executive functioning and physical limitations. Hearing about story characters that have and overcome similar struggles can provide inspiration and empowerment for your ASD child. In my bedtime story series “Tate’s Time Traveling Top”, Tate is a young boy with ASD who struggles with making friends. He is embarrassed by his tapping and hand flapping and all the other things that make him different, but Tate overcomes his self-consciousness and makes a special friend, Logan and they have great adventures together. Stories can show your child the many possibilities that lie within themselves through its characters.
As you may know, sympathy and empathy are typically extremely difficult for individuals with autism. However, research has shown that those with ASD do indeed feel such feelings, but just do not naturally know how to emotively display those feelings like neurotypicals do. Story-telling can help your child learn how to navigate this challenge by experiencing such situations narratively and translating it to real life. For instance, if a story character doesn’t make the basketball team, discuss how your child thinks the character feels and how she could appropriately respond to the character. A story is a safe place to explore potential everyday occurrences and can be a learning experience to help in the future.
Last but most certainly not least, reading and story-telling to your child is a special way to engage them. It may be difficult at times to have typical conversations with your child, but telling a story is a natural and enjoyable way to connect with him. It provides content and a nice beginning, middle, and end which helps with routine and expectations. Pick story genres and topics based on your child’s favorites. Does she enjoy the water and swimming? What about a particular animal or school subject? You could even go a step further and create stories together using various storytelling prompts (story dices, storytelling games or the Storybuilder within the Bedtime Stories app).With the bedtime stories app, you can even have your child help create the story with you! Use this special time to learn more about your child and share in the literary moments together.
Reading and story-telling can make a profound impact on your child as well as help foster a closer relationship with him or her. Be sure to carve out a special dedicated time for you to share stories with each other daily. An evening story time is a great chance to wind down together, but if nighttime isn’t preferred, stories work any time of day! Your story time together will make a beautiful story of its own, so start the story-sharing today!
About the Author
Sam(antha) Silvey is an autism momma of Brooks, her five year old son.
She draws inspiration from his beautifully quirky personality and his incredible ability to overcome challenges.
Writing has always been something Sam has loved to do on the side, but her special family has transformed her ‘hobby’ into a quest, a quest of autism acceptance.
Brooks has an amazing neurotypical older brother, Barrett, and a great daddy, Jason who are Brooks’ biggest champions.