Daphne is a 17 year old with moderate learning difficulties. She has severe word finding and auditory processing difficulties, with autistic spectrum features in her communication and interaction.
She took part in a 10 week intervention with a group of post 16 students, with a focus on friendship, building confidence and approaching transitions. Before the intervention, Daphne needed a lot of support to share her story and the topic was often quite narrow, focussing on Daphne’s interests in army tanks.
During the intervention, a meaningful and upsetting event occurred for Daphne involving her neighbour going to hospital in an ambulance. With support from her teaching assistant, Daphne was able to process this experience and share it with the group, and surprised everyone by talking spontaneously at length about the event. The following week, Daphne was again able to share that her neighbour had recovered and was back at home – Daphne was able to access and share this with minimal support and the lack of direct questioning reduced her word finding difficulties.
Frances is a 17 year old who is profoundly deaf, pre-verbal and on the autistic spectrum. She likes strong flavours and smells and is generally isolated and not engaged with her peers or adults. Frances took part in Storysharing with 4-5 other pupils who also had profound and multiple learning disabilities. Initially, she was disengaged during the sessions.
Her teaching assistant noticed a possible story – one day she disappeared, and was found in the kitchen covered in icing sugar powder! This story was repeated and rehearsed with Frances This led to small but important shifts in her behaviour – she reached out for the icing sugar to touch, small and lick it from her hand. His peer group also demonstrated interest through vocalisation, eye gaze and putting out their hands to her. For the first time, she was a part of the group.
Mohammed is an 18 year old pupil with profound and multiple learning disabilities. Mohammed was involved in a storysharing intervention with his classmates, who all had profound and multiple learning disabilities, over the course of 14 weeks.
Mohammed has severe mobility issues which meant that he had to be carried up and down stairs by his parents to use the bathroom. His story was about getting a new jacuzzi bath installed downstairs at home. His class teachers told his story for a few weeks in a row, using a multi sensory approach- getting a jacuzzi footspa to recreate the noise, smell and feel of his real bath, and using scented bubbles. Because of Mohammed’s processing time the story was given enough time for Mohammed to really engage with the props and for his classmates to interact with them also. Over time there was an increase in Mohammed’s familiarity of the story and you could track his progress from encounter to anticipation- a significant outcome for Mohammed. Mohammed’s family were able to have him living at home for longer as a result of the bath being installed. This outcome meant that sharing the story was relevant and meaningful not only to Mohammed, but to his peer group who got an insight into Mohammed’s home life. Mohammed’s story was told in his annual review as a transition story.
Daisy is 5 years old and has Down’s Syndrome. Daisy’s teacher used a total communication approach to co-narrate a story about Daisy going to the park. Daisy’s teacher positioned herself close to Daisy, with her arms either side of her to use hand-on-hand movements gesture and signing to share to demonstrate going round the roundabout, going down the slide. Photographs of all the play equipment and rhythm and repetition were used to reinforce and remember the story. Daisy’s teacher followed her lead so that when she said something or signed, she was able to re-affirm this with repetition. Through Storysharing, Daisy experienced a deeper engagement with her experience that she could then share with her peers and significant others.
Pete is a year 7 pupil, aged 12. He attends a special educational needs school full time after being on a dual placement with a mainstream school.
Pete has Down’s syndrome and is hearing impaired. He uses Makaton to support his speech and to follow what is being said to him. Initially, Pete’s storied tend to be long and rambling, with a blurring of real and fictional events and a narrative that could be difficult to follow. Over a period of weeks, Pete was supported to reduce the length of his sentences and to break his stories down into smaller parts so he could sequence them effectively when retelling. Through small group storysharing work and modelling by trained adults, Pete was able to develop his listening and language skills and to enable his peers to understand and engage with his storysharing.
Chris is an adult with learning disabilities who attends day services. He is pre-verbal, exhibits anxiety through OCD-type behaviours (clearing up and wiping surfaces,) will show his engagement by remaining physically present, some response to stimulus also shown by smiling, looking and doing.
He can draw objects with some skill. Initially when Chris came to the group he stayed for 5-10 minutes before he began to clear the table of objects and then walk out of the room. It was noticed that he enjoyed drawing so we incorporated this into our activities. Over the weeks he began to stay in the room for longer periods. One week there was story about how Chris had gone out for a trip to a café and had a cup of tea and a cake – for Chris going out into the world was an occasional experience, one that he did not often seem to want to have. His Storysharing partner used a big Mack for the sound of the bus, and a cup and saucer as a prop. Chris was able to look and listen while this story was shared. Once or twice he looked at his support worker, he looked calm – this was the level of engagement that he could tolerate. The whole group listened to him, validating his experience, and understanding something about Chris that would not otherwise be readily known because of his limited communication.
Thanks to Jane Harwood, Leah Harwood, Adam Varney, Lara Ellender and the team at Openstorytellers for sharing these stories.