During this time of great uncertainty, it is important that families and direct support professionals (DSPs) have tools to ease anxiety and promote a sense of normalcy with their family member or person they support. One tool that families may find helpful in explaining what is going on is the social story, or social narrative. Social stories are visual representations that may help someone understand the state of emergency and better regulate their feelings and responses.
When using a social story, it may be beneficial to
- use pictures to briefly describe the situation,
- share how a person might think, feel, or act,
- share what others may think, feel, or act,
- describe and discuss the appropriate response for the situation,
- or explain how that response may help the person and those around him or her.
There are many free resources for learning about social stories. Some examples are linked below. Amanda McGuinness in the United Kingdom has already developed a social story specific to COVID-19. It may be beneficial to develop a personalized social story using pictures of a family member or someone close to the person the story is being developed for. Take time to share this with other members of the family, coworkers, or families. Social stories work best when people refer back to them often.
Many people with disabilities, either in the family or someone else who is supported, understand that something big is happening. Helping these people become more familiar with uncertainty can have a huge impact. Understanding and following guidelines on social distancing and the importance of personal hygiene can help DSPs and others prepare for and prevent COVID-19.
In addition to the above, Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disabilities also has resources.