I got a call a few years ago from a mom of a child with autism I was working with. She had taken her son Tyler to his favorite restaurant, and when they got there he immediately disappeared into the bathroom as he did every time they went out in public. When Tyler didn’t return after a few minutes, she went over by the restrooms where she heard Tyler speaking with a manager inside the bathroom. Tyler was complaining about the water pressure in the sink, and providing the manager tips on how to improve it. The manager was listening patiently as the mom peeked in the door and told Tyler they had to go.
Tyler, like many students with autism, had a narrow interest. His happened to be public restrooms. Anytime he went somewhere, he would spend more time in the bathroom than the actual store or restaurant. He would check the plumbing and the electrical, looking for any imperfection he could contact a manager about. It has become such an issue that Tyler’s mom called me to help with this problem.
Creating A Solution with Social Stories
One of the solutions we implemented was a social story. Social stories were originally developed by Carol Gray (http://carolgraysocialstories.com/social-stories/). They can be a powerful tool to help students with autism understand and cope with social and behavioral challenges. There is a formula to writing social stories, but the important part is to be careful about giving too many directive statements (i.e. “you should be doing….”) and not enough descriptive statements. A social story is all about providing awareness and context, and the specific behavior you want to see becomes a logical extension.
Here is the social story we created for Tyler - if you are having issues with your student going to the bathroom too much feel free to use it. Otherwise, we hope you are inspired to write a social story for any other social or behavioral challenges your students may be facing!