Using Social Stories for Field Trips

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					Using Social Stories for Field Trips

Field trips can be a very important part of the school
experience for all children, including children with Autism.
Field trips broaden children’s horizons and give them
experiences that build knowledge and understanding. Having
background knowledge of things that happen in stories, such
as going to the zoo or playing in a park, is an essential
component of reading comprehension. Since students with
Autism often have challenges with language, it is important
that a lack of experiences does not make reading more
difficult. Field trips and community outings can also be great
topics to use for teaching conversational and social skills with
peers and friends.

Field trips can also capture or inspire a special interest in a
student, which may lead to future career possibilities. For
example, a student who loves marine life may be inspired by a
class trip to an aquarium. Students can learn more about the
careers available in the field, or may even be interested in
working at a job in a location such as an aquarium or

We may wonder what a student with Autism may “get” from
the experience of going on a field trip. It is often difficult to
know how much students with Autism understand from their
environment, but they often surprise me with the things they
pick up when no one thought they were listening. In her blog,
the Joy of Autism, Estee Klar shares this thought about
community experiences, “We all need time to filter -- to let
experience penetrate all of our senses. We need time to
process, to get used to new things without being pressured or
judged.” Perhaps one of the best things a student with Autism
can “get” from a field trip is simply the experience itself: the
beauty of visiting a butterfly garden or the excitement at
seeing the lion roar at the zoo. In describing her desire for her
son to have holiday photos taken with Santa Claus, a mother
said, “Who knows what life moments seep down into a kid’s
brain, even one with autism? We don’t know.” She’s right that
we don’t know, but I think that we are better off if we assume
that it does make a difference, and give kids the chance to
experience all life has to offer.

However, field trips for students with Autism are not without
difficulty. Many students with Autism thrive on consistency and
routine, and a change of schedule such as a field trip can be
very difficult. Add in any sensory issues that may arise, such
as hot temperatures, loud noises, and large crowds of people,
and the student may have even more challenges with the
event. A strategy that I like to use for my students to help
them prepare for field trips is “Social Stories.”

A Social Story is a tool for teaching social skills in a variety of
situations. It provides a written example (often supported by
pictures) of what a person can expect to happen in a social
situation, and what he or she will need to do in that situation.
More information about social stories can be found here: . When I
write a social story for an upcoming field trip, I like to include
the following:

      The name of the field trip location, such as “Texas State
      Pictures of the field trip location. A great place to find
       these is on the website of the location.
      Descriptions of things that the student will see and do.
      Reminders that there may be times where the student
       needs to wait in line, take turns, etc.
      What to do if the student is separated from the group.
      Any other relevant safety information.

Examples of two social stories, complete with pictures, can be
found in this month’s free downloads.

"I believe in experience. No matter how hard it is -- when a
child has a meltdown and you feel like melting away as a
parent -- we have to get up and keep trying. Dinners out, the
zoo, the movies even if for only ten minutes at a time -- we've
got to keep exposing our children to the world that also
belongs to them." - Estee Klar

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