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Monday, January 26, 2015

Building Narratives in Intervention With and Without Technology

I have been lucky to have the opportunity to hear Gloria Soto speak on a couple of occasions about developing narrative skills in children with complex communication needs.  She and her team have done fabulous work up in the Bay area (Ca.).  I have adapted their format as/when I can with a number of my students with autism who are nonverbal.  Teachers love to do this to work on this particular skill, which is usually an IEP goal (when I can get it in there).  
I ask parents to send in a picture from the weekend of something the student did or something that happened.  It doesn’t need to be exciting as a trip to Disneyland (which some families do regularly around here).  The example I often give is that it can be as simple as, “My brother tripped and spilled his milk all over the kitchen floor and mom was mad. It was funny.”
Sometimes it is teachers who work with the student to generate the narrative and sometimes it is the SLP.  But most often it is the aide who works with that student, so I have to make sure I’ve done training and that it makes sense to them. Then I have to hope it works.  Fortunately, I’ve worked with some really great aides.
I have them go slowly, step by step to use the student’s aac system (often an iPad with Proloquo2Go these days) to pull out the major Wh answers - Who was there, What did they do, Where were they, When was it.  Then I add How they felt about it.
Having navigated through the system to answer these basic questions, we are often left with a series of single word responses.  So these have to get expanded into 2-word utterances/symbol sequences.  We want to work 1 step above where the student is working. If possible, we expand the responses further, into simple sentences.
Then there is the matter of sequencing the phrases into an order that makes sense for that particular story.  All of this is done with the student’s aac system and with the communication partner writing it big on a white board.  In the end, the partner will program it into the student’s aac system, (if it’s not a picture communication book) so that they can tell the story to someone else.  If necessary the aide or teacher will use Boardmaker to sequence the symbols so that the child has a story page to use to re-tell the event to someone.

If you have the technology, you can create the story in a number of ways so that it can be spoken or read out loud.  With multiple pictures, you can use a story creation app to make a digital story book that retells the story.  On-line you can create it as a digital book on  On the computer there are a number of options.  Some teachers I work with use Boardmaker Studio, and can create a book there.
If you missed it in earlier posts, here is a link to my handout Using Story Creating Apps to Build Personal Narratives:  from iPad to Conversation" 

Personal narratives are the backbone of conversational skills.  They are often forgotten in the day to day imperative to build vocabulary, build syntax, increase use of the aac system.  But we have to remember that they are the actual reason we are doing those things. If our students can’t communicate with others naturally, what is it we are doing?
So, keep on making stories happen.

How are you building narratives for your students?

1 comment:

  1. Susan--so glad you are opening up the discussion to this important language skill area. Building narrative language skills is a major focus in my speech room also--my starting point (and one that I continually return to) is selecting and reading stories that exhibit a strong structure (characters, setting, problem, resolution, etc.). After discussing these structures or story grammar parts, I have students listen for and identify each as we read. Having them understand that there is a structure to good narratives helps them to incorporate the elements into their written and/or oral narratives.--Daria