How stories help you prepare for travel.

Going PlacesWe are always looking for resources that help families when traveling with autism. We found a great one with Sandbox Learning and invited Amy McGuire, their co-founder to guest blog with us here.

A couple of things struck us about this. Firstly we asked her to write about social stories. She replied that there are specific ratios to the sentences used in social stories and, since their stories are customizable, they might not comply with those ratios. So she simply calls them stories. We call her a consummate professional for being so precise.

The other thing that struck us was that she didn’t use this as an excuse to sell the Sandbox stories. We call that kind and considerate. Of course, it also means that she didn’t mention some of the specific stories that we thought relevant so we’ll do that for her. Here are just a couple:

Going Places.  Not about travel, per se, but an obvious connection.

School Breaks. Most of us take vacation during school breaks. This helps contextually.

Feeling Anxious. Many parents tell us that they worry about the anxiety that their child may experience while traveling.

Changing Activities. This includes how to deal with unexpected transitioning.

No single story covers every aspect of your child being able to take a family vacation. On the other hand, you have the freedom to pick the ones that may be relevant for your child and they teach things that will help your child in other situations beyond traveling.

Time to turn this over to Amy, with thanks.


Using Stories to Prepare Children for New Events or to Review Expectations


Children with autism often benefit from using stories to help them prepare for a new situation or to review expectations in a familiar situation. Whether the stories are written in a specific format (social stories) or are just written from the child’s perspective with information relevant to their specific needs, stories are helpful educational tools. Since children with autism often benefit from visuals, accompanying illustrations, photographs or visuals provide additional means of conveying information.

Stories should be written from a first person perspective. For example, ‘When I go visit Grandma I fly on an airplane.’  Information should be clear and at a level children can easily understand. For example, ‘I stay in my seat. I can read my books or watch videos while sitting in my seat.’ Rewards and consequences should be included in the story. For example, ‘If I use my inside voice during the flight, I can play on the tree swing at Grandma’s house.’

Review the story days before the event, the day of the event, and bring it as a reminder during the event. By preparing children and having something for them to review during the activity, expectations are clearly outlined for them.

Stories can be used to discuss virtually any topic including social skills (e.g. having conversations), behavior (e.g. following classroom rules), functional skills (e.g. bedtime routine), and specific situations (e.g. travel). Stories are available through a number of websites including Sandbox Learning( , which gives a free story about patience titled Waiting to people who register on their site. People also often make their own stories using drawings or photographs of their child.  Whether you purchase a story or make one, it can be a great tool to make travel less stressful.  Just remember regular review and discussion of the topic is important for preparing children and setting expectations.

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