If you’re like most people, you probably think of scripts as what actors use to learn their lines. So, why would we be talking about scripts in a blog focused on educational supports and therapy services for children in school?
Well, that’s because scripts actually have a much wider use than for strictly theatrical purposes.
In fact, you already use social scripts each and every day of your life!
Common social interactions like greetings often follow a set form (or script)—one that’s typically understood and used by every participant.
Just picture yourself at the checkout counter at your local grocery store. “Hi, how are you?” the clerk asks as you approach with your items. “Good, thanks! How about you?” you reply.
Guess what? You just used a very common social script! Take a bow and give yourself a round of applause.
We rely on social scripts like these in daily life to maintain the rules of politeness and courtesy, while not having to think too hard about coming up with what to say to people we don’t know that well.
Social scripts function as our way of signaling to others: “Hi, I’m friendly! And I understand the rules and norms of our society.”
But, social scripts can also be used above and beyond this purpose.
Did you know scripts can play an important role in your child’s therapy? It’s true!
Social scripts are a therapeutic strategy and teaching tool, used to help children learn and practice key social skills. They can also help kids improve their emotional recognition skills, by learning to interpret facial expressions and other nonverbal cues.
In particular, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) in the school setting often develop and use social scripts to help children on the autism spectrum to learn important social communication skills they may struggle to master.
Social scripts are a powerful learning tool, when used for this purpose.
They can also help all children understand and use social skills appropriately, such as politeness, greetings, and other social behavioral norms and expectations.
Now that you know why they’re used in the school setting, let’s take a look at what social scripts typically include, how they help, and who can benefit from them.
What are social scripts and how are they used?
The presentation of social scripts can vary widely, depending on the person creating them and the purpose they’re meant to serve.
In a nutshell, a social script is a written or visual item that clearly lays out the behaviors, actions, and consequences that are expected of participants in specific situations or settings.
Social scripts typically utilize a combination of visuals and text. They can include photos, drawings, or any types of visuals that are relevant to the skills being targeted and the child (or children) being taught.
Humans are so attuned to information presented in stories—social scripts co-opt the power of this narrative form to teach important skills in a way that’s engaging and powerful.
Social scripts are used to help children recognize and understand social interactions, by presenting them in a form that’s easily digestible and breaks down social situations into their component parts.
Social scripts also allow children to practice, review, and break down social skills and cues.
Using them, children in need can work to improve their social communication skills and overall awareness of social cues happening around them. This awareness can bolster their ability to engage in more positive, productive social interactions.
Who can benefit from social scripts?
Even for adults, social situations can sometimes be tricky. We all have firsthand experience putting our foot in our mouth at one time or another.
Social rules and norms also vary widely by culture, age, and social status.
In some cultures, it’s considered very rude to point. In others, making eye contact is a sign of disrespect. The social norms of other cultures can sharply contrast those of your own.
From a communication standpoint, unintended rudeness can present a barrier to effective and open communication.
It’s smart, therefore, to understand the general social rules of a given society, in order to avoid misunderstandings and unintentional conflicts.
Now, imagine you’re a student who’s attending school in a culture or country that’s not your own. It’s easy to see how this might be difficult—on top of the barriers related to any language differences.
Students who are learning English as a second language (also known as ESL students) can sometimes benefit from the use of social scripts to help them learn and use the appropriate social skills of their adopted culture. This can include language skills, body language norms, emotional recognition, and other nonverbal behavioral skills training.
Because social stories are a way to take concepts and make them visual, children with issues that impact their ability to process verbal information can benefit from their use, as well. This includes kids with auditory processing disorder, ADHD, and executive functioning difficulties.
Children with these issues can benefit from the ability of social scripts to take abstract concepts and make them concrete and more easily understood. For children who struggle with or are learning symbolic thought skills, this method of information presentation can be very helpful.
A major population who social scripts are commonly used with is children on the autism spectrum.
For kids with autism (ASD), social stories can promote understanding of others' emotions and actions, reading and following social cues, and planning for a variety of social situations.
For kids with ASD, social scripts are also beneficial because they can be reviewed, broken down, and practiced over and over.
Social scripts are also beneficial in assisting children with autism who struggle with daily transitions or routine changes. They can help establish expectations, promote resilience to change, and build awareness about what will happen.
Social scripts can help reduce the stress some children with autism experience in social situations by reducing uncertainty and offering clarity and a plan to navigate interactions.
Social scripts can work in a group setting, but are often individualized toward a specific child’s needs.
Social scripts can be utilized by a wide range of people. Speech and language pathologists (SLPs) often use social scripts in their therapy sessions with students practicing their pragmatic (or social) language skills.
Child psychologists also use social scripts to help teach their clients about behavioral awareness and management skills.
Parents can even create and use social scripts, in order to target specific skills their children need to practice and learn.
Are social scripts appropriate for my child?
If your child is being seen by a speech-language pathologist, social scripts may be a part of their therapy plan if appropriate.
When your child is evaluated and treated by The Loop’s team of therapists, we ensure each and every treatment plan we create is designed specifically for your child and their unique needs. We take into account their strengths as well as their areas of need, and infuse our plans with activities and approaches they’ll find motivating and engaging.
After all—therapy should be fun as well as beneficial!
If using social scripts in your child’s therapy, these therapeutic tools will be created for and geared especially to your child’s individual needs and goals in therapy. Our stellar team of SLPs are highly skilled in developing and using social scripts in our therapy plans.
We’ll also involve you in the process! We’ll train you in the use of your child’s social scripts at home, and may even work with you to develop some especially for your home environment.
Because we know—learning takes place across all settings. And we want your child’s therapy to address all aspects of their life, maximizing its effectiveness.
We hope this article has shown you how and why social scripts can be a powerful tool in your child’s therapy plan. If your child is in need of quality therapeutic services, we’re standing by to help them succeed and thrive!
The Loop is deeply passionate about helping Chicago students and families in need. With our expansive array of therapy and educational support services, we’ve got everything your child needs to succeed! Learn more about our outstanding occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, learning remediation, executive function coaching, and educational consultancy and advocacy services.
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