Life on Planet Earth

Several people working with the boys over the years suggested that I read “social stories” to them.  I always assumed this meant that I should find books about a boy lying to his father, or a girl left out of a recess game, stories that show how we should react in common social situations.

But a girl can only follow up on so many suggestions thrown at her by helpful professionals.  And ‘social stories’ never made the cut.  When a new doctor recommended them recently, I finally bought The New Social Story Book by Carol Gray.

It turns out that there are very specific rules for what does and doesn’t count as a social story within the field of social pragmatics.  And nothing I would have previously called a story fits the bill.  When I first read through the stories in Gray’s book, I thought, “These aren’t stories.  These are lectures on how not to be a social baffoon.  Who needs explicit instruction about how to chew gum without grossing people out or how to graciously accept a gift you don’t like.  My kids are going to hate these so-called stories.”

I was wrong.  My kids love them. Jeff loves them.  I think that Wendy, who is helping us act out the stories, likes them too.  And I might be getting just a teeny-weeny bit obsessed with them (which means that if you read the blog for the next few weeks, you’re gonna learn a lot about them).

Stories must meet ten criteria to be considered a true social story.  I’ll cover each of them in later posts, along with what Wendy is doing to teach the stories and how the boys are responding.  For now, let me share one of the stories to give you a feel for them.

Story #12: What is a Mistake?

A mistake is an answer, idea, or act that is an error.  When someone does something that is not right, it’s a mistake.

There are many examples of mistakes.  It’s a mistake to misspell a word.  It’s a mistake to leave a jacket at home on a very cold day.  It’s a mistake to forget to turn in finished schoolwork.  People make many other kinds of mistakes too.

As people grow, they learn from their mistakes.  They may not make the same mistake again.  However, people are always growing, having new experiences.  For this reason, people are always making new mistakes.

Sometimes, people know they have made a mistake.  Other times, they learn that they made a mistake from others.  Once in a while, a mistake is made and no one notices it.

Most people try to answer questions correctly.  They try to have good ideas.  They try to do the right thing.  As hard as people try, though, they still make mistakes.

Mistakes are part of Life on Planet Earth.  That is okay.

That last line is what sold me.  There is something so reassuring about the phrase Life on Planet Earth.  Here on Planet Earth, we make mistakes.  Here on Planet Earth, even when we are trying out best, we don’t always get it right.

Life on Planet Earth would be so much better if everyone understood this aspect of Life on Planet Earth, don’t you think?


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  • Janis Henning

    Social stories are used a lot in some special education programs. They are really helpful when talking with EBD (emotional/behavioral disorder), Autistic, and at-risk kids, especially in elementary school.

  • Shannah

    I too find this fascinating! Can't wait to read the next post. Lucky for me I am behind so I can read it right now!