I often write and talk about the importance of developing narrative skills in students in order to build their conversational and literacy skills. As often as possible, I make this an IEP objective for students with whom I am working.
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 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 we recast these to expand them 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 a software program like Boardmaker or Tobii Communicator to sequence the symbols so that the child has a story page to use to re-tell the event to someone.
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