Using Narratives to Develop Social Skills

Although there are neurological differences that contribute to gaps in social connectedness, narratives can help to teach how to interact more appropriately and even how to self-regulate. Narratives usually offer key pieces of understanding that help the individual see a situation more fully, and have some strategies with which to navigate that situation more successfully. By including their own feelings about the situation, the individual can also feel “heard” or validated about their perspective.

People holding hands under cloud with social media communication

There have been several pioneers in this type of intervention, most notably Carol Gray of The Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding , who is the author of Social Stories™. There are several books and many internet resources available on this specific strategy.

A narrative is a brief story or vignette that describes a specific situation with clarifying information. Depending on the challenges presented by the individual, the story or vignette may give insight into why this is important to others, and what they might do differently in order to achieve success in this situation.

There are a variety of presentation styles and options that can be used to meet the needs of diverse learners through narratives.

PowerPoint or Prezi Presentations

One of the appealing features of the PowerPoint or Prezi presentation is that it may be viewed and reviewed on the computer for individual stories, or projected on the big screen for class-wide stories [e.g. how to clean up after centers]. PowerPoint presentations have a variety of enhancements: You can insert photos, clipart, charts, graphs, audio and video clips to increase understanding. Remember to also print out a hard copy of the narrative in different sizes for quick and easy access. These stories can be meaningful additions to the class library.

The Prezi format has acquired a great deal of interest in recent years as a vehicle for narratives. Prezi is a cloud-based presentation software that opens synthesized whiteboards and slides. A major feature of the Prezi format is that it organizes the graphics and key ideas on a zoomable canvas. Imagine a more circular experience than the linear PowerPoint, and that is what Prezi is in a nutshell.

Neither is better, they are just different and may appeal in different ways to different learners. As with the PowerPoint software, Prezi is used as an instructional and informational tool in schools, universities and the business world. A quick google of Prezi will provide much more information about how to access this software either free or at a cost, depending on the type of usage you anticipate.

Illustrations & Graphics

The teacher or parent can make a narrative come alive through a variety of illustrations and/or graphics. Clipart, images from copyright free sources or even photographs of the child and his/her peers may be incorporated throughout. These pictures can add interest and offer a visual understanding of the expectations or desired behavior.

Strive to include illustrations and graphics of positive and desired behaviors as this is what we want the brain to process and incorporate. Leave the universal sign for “no” and other “don’ts” for other strategies such as replacement cards or flip cards.

Audio Features

If you use PowerPoint or an iPad/iPod application, you can easily incorporate sound in a variety of ways. If a student is especially attentive to particular sounds, then include them to increase the novelty and student motivation. The sounds could include anything from clocks ticking to trains blowing.

Another idea is to narrate the story so that the student can hear it as he/she reads it independently. Teachers, peers or parents can serve as narrators with a little planning. The following is an example of a narrative written for a High School student:

My name is Christian and I am a Senior in High School this year. I like to play video games, have fun and hang out with friends. Sometimes, when I try to have fun and hang out, it comes out in ways that might seem rude to other people. That is not my intent, but I can see how they might take it the wrong way. I will try to make sure that my comments are a little less dark and that they help to make the other person enjoy our conversation as much as I do. I can take out any frustration I might feel about this on the enemies of the Detective Agency when I play video games. When I hang out with friends, I can join the group by first listening to what they are saying and finding out what they are talking about. Then, I can add to the conversation with a comment that is related to that topic. I have a dark sense of humor and that can be easily misinterpreted by some.

By Lisa Rogers

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The Education (K-12) Blogs and Special Ed Q & A are written and maintained weekly by Lisa Rogers with Educating Diverse Learners. Lisa received her M.A. in Special Education with an endorsement in the area of individuals with severe disabilities. Mrs. Rogers has also created products that have been used throughout the state of Texas for training purposes. Through the Association for Texas Professional Educators [ATPE], Ms. Rogers has produced an online course that targets the importance of visual strategies for student with autism spectrum disorders and just released her highly anticipated book titled: Visual Supports for Visual Thinkers.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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