There are two ways that social stories may help children with autism: by providing the framework to understand other people's perspectives, desires and beliefs, and by giving the children direction on what to focus on in a social situation. Social stories serve as a written or visual guide (as in the case of comics) to the different perspectives, social cues and relevant responses to a social situation.
The goal of a social story is to explain a common social situation in a supportive and patient environment. As of 2015, there are calls for more research into their effectiveness, as there is not enough clear evidence to support their widespread use as an intervention method.
There are two theories that suggest why social stories could be useful to children with autism. The first is that they provide children with a theory of mind. The second is that they strengthen a child's central coherence.
A theory of mind is the framework by which a person understands the perspectives of other people within a situation, and central coherence is the ability to focus on the whole of a situation as opposed to all the little details. Both explanations suggest that social stories provide a model that autistic individuals can use to learn to empathize and focus within a social situation.