Narrative Language

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Narratives are everywhere. Aside from stories in books (and in movies, shows, the news, and history), narrative language is a big part of how we connect socially with others and convey information. Understanding and being able to use narratives is important for school success, and those skills are embedded in state and local standards as well. And as you’ll read, there are serious advantages to including narrative skills in your assessments, and to targeting them in your language therapy sessions. On top of that, focusing on narratives can make your therapy really fun AND easy to plan. Convinced you yet?

Wherever you are on the narrative bandwagon—in the driver’s seat or looking on from the sidelines—this collection of research reviews will give you information, ideas, tools, and enthusiasm to enhance your practice. We lead off with two reviews that studied the effects of narrative interventions on other skills, like general language abilities and writing. From there, we’ll take you through two reviews of research relating to a specific progress monitoring tool (the MISL) and curriculum (SKILL; both from the same research group) that target narrative skills. Then, you’ll read about research on specific populations: children with ASD, dual-language learners, children who use AAC, and young people with Down Syndrome. These reviews discuss differences in narrative skills you might find in these groups, as well as assessment and intervention ideas.

Several reviews discuss evidence behind off-the-shelf curriculum packages that you can purchase, but for the budget-conscious, these articles are also a goldmine of free resources. Narrative assessments and progress monitoring rubrics that are free to download? Check. Step-by-step treatment plans? Yep. A shoulder massage and a latte? If only…  


Narrative intervention supports language skills

We review research on narratives a lot—probably because narrative skills are: (1) needed in both academic and everyday social interactions, (2) featured in common core standards, and (3) supported by evidence for both assessment and treatment of language skills. If you’re not convinced yet, here’s a good treatment study!

Adlof et al. tested their “Structured Narrative Retell Instruction” (SNRI) in a small feasibility study. A small group of preschool–1st grade children (ages 3–6) were recruited from a center serving low-income families. Children received either the SNRI or a control treatment of “code-focused literacy instruction” (identifying sounds and letters, pointing out rhymes, etc.) in small group sessions lasting 40 min, 2 times per week for 6 weeks. Both conditions used published children’s storybooks, and the children got to take them home.

In SNRI sessions, clinicians read the books and: (1) led children in think-alouds, (2) pointed out story grammar elements (setting, characters, problem, etc.), and (3) defined and discussed challenging vocabulary words. Then, clinicians led the group in answering comprehension questions and assisted children in retelling the story. See the article’s supplemental materials for an example lesson.

After the intervention, children in the SNRI group showed large gains on measures of vocabulary, narrative skill, and grammar, while children in the control group showed gains on fewer measures. This is a small, initial study, so we have to interpret the results with caution. However, the results were promising and add to the evidence showing narrative intervention improves children’s language skills.

Adlof, S. M., McLeod, A., & Leftwich, B. (2014). Structured narrative retell instruction for young children from low socioeconomic backgrounds: A preliminary study of feasibility. Frontiers in Psychology. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00391.

Oral narratives and writing: An intervention BOGO!


Here are a few things we know about writing:

  1. It’s a really complicated, difficult skill that’s very important for school success.

  2. Writing abilities are correlated with oral language skills.

  3. Writing falls within an SLP’s scope, but many of us feel unprepared to tackle it, or find it hard to fit into short treatment sessions, especially with younger students.

What if I told you there was a way to improve your students’ writing without treating it directly? 

I’ll wait while you do your happy dance.

Yes, friends, it’s true. This study found that 6 out of 7 first-graders who received a short course of small-group narrative language intervention (specifically Story Champs) “made clear and meaningful growth in writing quality… [and after] instruction, students included more story grammar elements in their stories, creating longer stories with complete episodes.”

Before you get too excited, keep in mind that this was a very small study*, and the children were not diagnosed with language disorders (although one had ASD and was on an IEP). We can’t necessarily assume the intervention would show the same benefits for kiddos on your caseload. Either way, narrative skills are something you’ll probably be addressing in therapy, so consider collecting writing samples to look for evidence of this *bonus* skill boost!

*A fun(?) aside: This study is an example of “action research,” where actual, in-the-wild, teacher/clinician-delivered interventions get the research-study treatment. This is what we all want—information relevant to what happens in the messy, wonderful, real world of teaching kids. Read the article to learn more about how the authors controlled aspects of the intervention to make it pass muster as an experimental study. Would you consider partnering with researchers to do something similar? ASHA gives grants for this type of thing!

Spencer, T. D., & Petersen, D. B. (2018). Bridging Oral and Written Language: An Oral Narrative Language Intervention Study With Writing Outcomes. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools. doi: 10.1044/2018_LSHSS-17-0030


Knowing what to monitor in child narrative skills

This study examined the reliability and validity of a progress monitoring tool for narratives called Monitoring Indicators of Scholarly Language (MISL). They looked at both narrative macrostructure and microstructure skills in 109 five- to nine-year-olds. Examples of macrostructure include character, setting, initiating events; microstructure includes syntactic things like clause types, and verb modification. The MISL was designed to monitor development of narratives across the elementary years—from the very simple to more complex multi-episode narratives, usually with picture prompts, though storytelling can also be measured.
They found good inter-rater reliability, consistency reliability, and construct validity. Interestingly, narrative proficiency was best measured when the microstructure elements of grammar and tense were removed. This certainly doesn’t mean that clinicians shouldn’t work on grammar and tense, but that these skills may not be ideal for progress-monitoring narratives.
This paper is written not only for fellow scholars, but speaks directly to clinicians as well, which is wonderful. They provide a list of the third grade Common Core State Standards that are measured, the actual MISL rubric in full (yay!), and ideas on how to efficiently perform the test.

Gillam, S.L., Gillam, R.B., Fargo, J.D., Olszewski, A., Segura, H.S. (2016). Monitoring Indicators of Scholarly Language: A Progress-Monitoring Instrument for Measuring Narrative Discourse Skills. Communication Disorders Quarterly. doi:10.1177/1525740116651442.

Improving the narrative skills of children with language disorder

It’s hard to imagine going through a day without either telling or hearing a story. “What’d you do this weekend? What was the movie about? What happened?!” We don’t think twice when answering these questions. For some kids, though, this can be really difficult. As the authors of this study point out, “…elementary school–age children with language disorders who demonstrate poor narrative skills are disadvantaged during a large portion of the school day because a great deal of classroom instruction incorporates some degree of narrative discourse into the lessons.”

To address this need, the authors developed a program called Supporting Knowledge in Language and Literacy (SKILL), with the goal of specifically targeting narrative skills directly related to the elementary curriculum (that’s right, think Common Core). The intervention was designed to teach children basic story elements such as characters, setting, actions, consequences, and the relationships among these elements. It then uses story modeling, story retelling, story generation, and story evaluation to develop the child’s narration and literacy skills. Check out the study for a detailed description of the program.

After roughly 8 weeks, the four children who received the intervention told stories that were longer, contained more diverse vocabulary, and were more complex than their stories at baseline.

Other than results, what’s good about SKILL? The lessons include evidence-based procedures that are actually scripted out for you. You buy the manual (see here) and materials and you’re off to the races! No planning needed.

Butthe authors admit that the study was small and did not meet the highest design standards, and the SKILL curriculum has only been studied one other time as a whole-classroom intervention.

Gillam, S. L., Olszewski, A., Squires, K., Wolfe, K., Slocum, T., & Gillam, R. B. (2018). Improving narrative production in children with language disorders: An early-stage efficacy study of a narrative intervention program. Language Speech and Hearing Services in Schools. doi: 10.1044/2017_LSHSS-17-0047.

Just say "yes" to narrative assessment for ASD

We all have those high-functioning kids with ASD who score in the average range on the CELF but so clearly have language issues. It can be hard to justify services for students like this, especially in school districts where test scores are the main criteria for eligibility. King & Palikara sought a solution to this frequent dilemma by using a variety of different assessment tools.

Using groups of adolescents both with and without high-functioning ASD, the researchers tested each child using the CELF-4, a standardized vocabulary test, a variety of narrative analysis tasks, and the Children’s Communication Checklist (CCC-2), completed by parents and teachers.


Not surprisingly, the adolescents with ASD scored similarly to typically developing peers on the CELF-4 and vocabulary measure. However, students with ASD scored significantly lower on a variety of narrative tasks.

Compared to peers, adolescents with ASD produced narratives that:

  • Were shorter and less grammatically complex

  • Used more limited vocabulary

  • Included less reasoning and fewer explanations

  • Made fewer references to emotion and thoughts

  • Made use of fewer linguistic enrichment devices

  • Contained less conflict resolution and reduced character development

  • Were overall less coherent

Did you get all that?

Basically, when assessing high-functioning students with ASD, especially those on the verge of qualifying, do yourself a favor and include some kind of narrative measure. I know, I know—narrative analysis can be complex and time-consuming, and the authors note this as well. But using narratives in assessment can give us great information about specific areas of difficulty that the CELF just doesn’t address. Besides, narrative assessment results translate so easily into IEP goals, so it will be worth your while. Check out the original article for more details on how they used and analyzed narrative assessment!

King, D., & Palikara, O. (2018). Assessing language skills in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Child Language Teaching and Therapy. doi: 10.1177/0265659018780968.

Narrative skills in verbal preschoolers with autism

This study looked at verbal preschoolers with autism spectrum disorders’ (ASDs) ability to comprehend and retell oral narratives. Children listened to a short story twice while looking at pictures on a computer. Between readings, they were asked eight comprehension questions (factual and inferential wh-questions). Then, children were asked to retell the story (sans pictures).

Results showed that the children had low accuracy on the comprehension questions, with higher accuracy on factual than inferential questions. Five children did not produce a retell at all, four told an off-topic story, and one was excluded for unusually high performance. For the nineteen children whose retells were analyzed, microstructure was comparable to typically developing 4-year-olds’ in terms of length, number of different words, and MLU in morphemes, but was lower in grammatical accuracy. Children with autism included few macrostructure elements (e.g., setting, problem, plan, etc.). Most children, “…produced descriptive or action sequences, implying a lack of understanding of goal-directed behavior.”

Note that this is a small study that gives only descriptive information about narrative production. However, given that there is little existing research on narrative abilities of preschoolers with ASDs, the data give us a starting point for thinking about narrative assessment with these children. In particular, this study suggests that we need to look at narrative macrostructure (i.e., understanding the overall goal of the story), which may be hard for preschoolers with ASD even when their sentence-level language skills look relatively strong.

Westerveld, M. F. & Roberts, J. M. A. (2017). The oral narrative comprehension and production abilities of verbal preschoolers on the autism spectrum. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in the Schools. doi: 10.1044/2017_LSHSS-17-0003.


Narrative intervention for ASD (and free stuff!)

SLPs see a lot of children who have difficulty with narrative tasks. While typically developing preschoolers are beginning to understand story grammar, children with autism and/or developmental language disorders often struggle well into elementary years, affecting them both academically and socially. Narrative comprehension and generation are also a focus of the Common Core standards, as the authors of this paper explain:

“[Per Common Core] kindergartners should be able to tell a story in time order; second graders should be able to give details of actions, thoughts, and feelings; and fourth graders should be able to effectively recount subtleties of narrative events. Students must be able to meet these rigorous expectations that are now guiding instruction and evaluation across the United States.”

Need narrative assessment and intervention resources to help your students jump this high bar? Petersen and colleagues have you covered. They have created the CUBED assessment for narrative language, which can be downloaded for free here, are currently norming the DYMOND (see their guest review on that), and tested a narrative intervention in this study here.

Three boys ages 6–8 with ASD were assessed using a previous version of the CUBED assessment and then participated in 12 intervention sessions to see if the treatment improved their story grammar and linguistic complexity in personal narratives. Story grammar (e.g., internal response, problem, action, consequence, etc.) and linguistic complexity targets (e.g., causality, temporal conjunctions, adverbs, subordinate clauses, etc.) were chosen for each boy based on his performance on the initial assessment.

The general framework of the intervention includes 8 steps (4 addressing narrative re-telling, 4 addressing narrative generation) completed in order.

  1. Clinician tells model story, providing story grammar icons for visual support

  2. Child re-tells the model story, with full support from clinician

  3. Child re-tells the model story, with fading support

  4. Child independently re-tells the model story

  5. Child generates a personal narrative related to model story while clinician sketches visual cues

  6. Child re-tells narrative with full support

  7. Child re-tells narrative with fading support

  8. Child independently re-tells narrative after brief “break” (clean-up)

That looks pretty reasonable, but did it work? After analyzing the students’ final narratives, the authors found that all three students increased the story grammar elements and linguistic complexity of their narratives immediately after intervention, but maintenance of these improvements was inconsistent. The authors suggested that “it is likely that greater numbers of individualized narrative intervention sessions are necessary to maintain global gains for children with autism.” So while this intervention is promising, it’s not a quick fix.

See the paper’s appendices for treatment steps, a scoring rubric, and model story examples. For more information on sketching visual supports from children’s narratives, see here.

Petersen, D. B., Brown, C., L, Ukrainetz, T. A., Wise, C., Spencer, T. D., & Zebre, J. (2014). Systematic individualized narrative language intervention on the personal narratives of children with autism. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools. doi: 10.1044/2013_LSHSS-12-0099.

Improving personal narrative skills in young adults with autism

People with autism may have difficulties with several aspects of language and social communication; one common challenge is in the production of personal narratives. A personal narrative is a true story of something that happened in the person’s life, past or recent. It’s a fundamental part of social communication, and crucial for being able to engage in conversation with others, explain your point of view, and advocate for yourself.

For this study, the researchers enrolled ten people with autism (15–25 years old), and their parents, and split them into a treatment group and a wait-list control group. At baseline, the ten young adults with autism produced narratives with quality ratings equivalent to a child under six years old.

The parents in the treatment group participated in a two-hour training program to teach them how to better support narrative development in their young adult children. The authors list and describe the ten topics the parents were trained on. For example, topic #4 was:

“Ask plenty of wh questions and few yes/no questions. As part of this, ask questions about the context or setting of the events, especially where and when they took place.”

Following training, the authors found that parents were more elaborative in their communicative interactions with their children, and the young adults with ASD produced significantly more elaborative narratives as well, indicating that this may be a promising therapeutic technique. The researchers indicate plans to examine the use of this technique with parents of younger children in the future. 

McCabe, A., Hillier, A., DaSilva, C., Queenan, A., Tauras, M. (2016). Parental Mediation in the Improvement of Narrative Skills of High-Functioning Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Communication Disorders Quarterly. doi: 10.1177/1525740116669114.


Spanish and English and narratives, oh my!

We know that narrative comprehension and production skills are important for classroom success, but it can be difficult to interpret narrative assessment results for our bilingual clients. Gibson et al. compared the performance of Spanish–English bilingual children with and without developmental language disorder* (DLD) in kindergarten and first grade on the Test of Narrative Language (TNL; administered in English). They found that:

  • Across all ages and tasks, children with typical development performed better than children with DLD.

  • On the overall TNL, kindergarteners with DLD had lower receptive than expressive scores, while typical children did not. This “gap” went away in first grade.

This suggests that narrative tasks are useful for diagnosing DLD in bilingual children, and that higher receptive than expressive skills are a potential red flag. But, an important note: the authors state that the TNL does not have enough bilingual children in its norms to diagnose DLD in this population. And, sure enough, the typical children in their study scored lower than the mean score on the TNL in kindergarten. We can still use the TNL or similar narrative tasks to describe the language abilities of bilingual children, though.

So we know that assessing bilingual children’s narratives is important, but where do we go from there? Here’s one idea: Miller et al. taught four school-age Spanish–English bilingual children with DLD to tell more-complete narratives using the Story Grammar Marker. If you’ve never seen one of these, it’s…kind of like an arts and crafts project? Each little doodad represents a story grammar element (e.g., setting, characters, problem). During one-on-one treatment sessions (three half hours per week, conducted in English), researchers taught story grammar elements, modeled stories, supported children’s retells, and encouraged independent retells. All children showed improvement on narrative organization, but improvements on measures of retell length, vocabulary, and grammar were mixed. This is a small study, but it’s the first to look at story grammar intervention in this population, and the initial results are promising.

*Note: The children in this study were those with Primary, or Specific, Language Impairment (PLI/SLI), which refers to children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) and normal nonverbal intelligence. We use DLD throughout our website for consistency purposes (read more here).

Gibson, T. A., Peña, E. D., & Bedore, L. M. (2018). The receptive-expressive gap in English narratives of Spanish-English bilingual children with and without language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. doi: 10.1044/2018_JSLHR-L-16-0432.

Miller, R. D., Correa, V. I., & Katsiyannis, A. (2018). Effects of a story grammar intervention with repeated retells for English learners with language impairments. Communication Disorders Quarterly. doi: 10.1177/1525740117751897.


Dual language narrative intervention for Spanish-speaking preschoolers

To succeed in school, students have to be able to read English text, and to do so, they have to know the vocabulary and understand narrative language. This may seem simple for us proficient English readers, but for children who are learning English as a second language, reading can be a significant obstacle to academic success. These students are often not equipped with the vocabulary and narrative language to understand the text necessary to succeed in school.


So how do we combat this? Past researchers have found that dual language instruction (i.e., instruction in both languages) can lead to positive outcomes in students’ second language. The authors of this study aimed to add to this research and investigated a Spanish–English narrative intervention on the vocabulary and narrative skills of Spanish-speaking preschoolers who were learning English.

Eight preschoolers who participated in Head Start programs received the intervention in small groups. Half the lessons were provided in Spanish and half in English, with each lesson following the same instructional format with seven activities. The activities included listening to stories and looking at illustrations, learning new vocabulary words and referencing them throughout the stories, naming the parts of stories, playing games related to the stories and vocabulary words, and re-telling stories.  

After 24 lessons, all children improved their English narrative retell performances—that is, they were able to better retell a story that the instructor just told in English. No changes were seen in their Spanish re-tells since all of the children were already at a developmentally appropriate level. Most of the children also improved their knowledge of the English target vocabulary words, with only a few of the children learning the target Spanish words.

Despite the overall positive findings, the authors did point out that, “it is unknown whether the Spanish lessons facilitated or accelerated children’s gain in English.” It is important to consider that English-only instruction may have had a similar or larger impact on English language outcomes compared to dual language intervention. From this study, we cannot say that one is better than the other. What can we take-away? Dual language intervention can have a positive impact on the English language skills of Spanish-speaking preschoolers, while maintaining or possibly improving their Spanish language skills. 

Spencer, T. D., Petersen, D. B., Restrepo, M. A., Thompson, M., & Gutierrez Arvizu, M. N. (2018). The effect of Spanish and English narrative intervention on the language skills of young dual language learners. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education. doi:10.1177/0271121418779439.


GUEST POST: On the DYMOND (Dynamic Measure of Oral Narrative Discourse)

Have you been avoiding dynamic assessment because it is too complicated and time consuming? A new study by Petersen et al. (2016) outlines an efficient, accurate, and standardized way to identify language impairment in school-aged children using a narrative dynamic assessment.

What is dynamic assessment?

Dynamic assessment is a method used to measure a student’s learning potential rather than their current knowledge. A test-teach-retest approach is often used. The child is given an initial test to determine their current individual performance. They are then given a brief period of instruction to determine their learning potential (modifiability). Lastly, they are retested using an alternate form of the pre-test. Overall modifiability is based on the student’s change in score from pretest to posttest, what learning behaviors the student exhibited, and how much effort from the examiner was needed to teach the child. This focus on modifiability makes dynamic assessment especially useful with culturally and linguistically diverse populations, where differences in prior knowledge have historically confounded the accurate identification of language impairment.

Why use dynamic assessment of oral narratives?

  • Higher classification accuracy than most traditional standardized, norm-referenced assessments

  • Measures a child’s ability to learn rather than prior knowledge

  • Overcomes test biases against culturally and linguistically diverse populations

  • Takes less than 30 minutes to administer

  • Assesses multiple skills including story grammar, vocabulary, cohesion, and grammar in a functional context

  • Provides direction for intervention

The recent study by Petersen et. al (2016) investigated the classification accuracy of a dynamic assessment in identifying culturally and linguistically diverse children with and without language disorders. 42 Spanish-English-speaking bilingual children were given two 25-minute test-teach-retest narrative dynamic assessments. Missing story grammar elements and subordinating conjunctions (e.g., because, after) were taught during the teaching phase. Results showed that modifiability ratings (remember—that's learning potential) were able to identify children with and without language disorders with almost perfect accuracy after only 25 minutes.

The DYMOND (Dynamic Measure of Oral Narrative Discourse), a standardized dynamic assessment of oral narratives for school-age children that is based on this most recent study is currently being piloted. You can download the DYMOND for free here. By participating in this pilot initiative, you can help gather national norms for this assessment and have a free tool that will help accurately identify children with language impairment.

Petersen, D.B., Chanthongthip, H., Ukrainetz, T.A., Spencer, T.D., & and Steeve, R.W. (2017). Dynamic Assessment of Narratives: Efficient, Accurate Identification of Language Impairment in Bilingual Students. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. doi: 10.1044/2016_JSLHR-L-15-0426.

This review is written by guest authors: Whitney A. Mount, Ashlynn J. Stevens, Mikal A. Forseth, & Douglas B. Petersen. Thank you all for taking the time to share your research with us!


Lennox et al. found that oral narrative tasks were more useful than sentence-level tasks at assessing oral language abilities following Tier 1 intervention in a diverse, low-SES group of kindergarten-aged students.

Lennox, M., Westerveld, M. F., & Trembath, D. (2017). Should We Use Sentence- or Text-Level Tasks to Measure Oral Language Proficiency in Year-One Students following Whole-Class Intervention? Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica. doi: 10.1159/000485974.  

Narrative skills of children who use AAC

Telling stories is an important social skill, and one that may be challenging for children who use AAC. This study looked at stories told by 8- to 15-year-old children who use AAC with the support of a familiar communication partner. Children watched short, wordless videos that featured some sort of problem (like a person slipping on a banana peel) and then explained the story to someone who hadn’t seen it. Overall, children who used AAC produced narratives that were shorter and contained fewer important elements than those of same-age speaking peers, although “[t]opic maintenance and setting or character descriptions” were relative areas of strength. Communication partners typically elaborated on what children were saying without taking over the interaction, and there were no significant differences in story quality between types of communication partners (peers, parents, and professionals).

Some implications of the study:

  • Think about using narrative tasks to assess the ease and complexity of communication for children who use AAC—and remember to teach narrative structure, too!

  • Observe interactions with peers, parents, teachers, or other familiar communication partners to see how their assistance affects the child’s communication. You could also see what functions the partner is taking on—filling in details, compensating for lack of available vocabulary, etc.—and target those areas to increase independence.

Note that all children in this study had cerebral palsy and good receptive language and cognitive abilities per teacher report; it’s not clear how these findings would apply to children with different language and cognitive profiles.

Smith, M. M., Batorowicz, B., Dahlgren Sandberg, A., Murray, J., Stadskleiv, K., van Balkom, H., Neuvonen, K., & von Tetzchner, S. (2018). Constructing narratives to describe video events using aided communication. Augmentative and Alternative Communication. doi: 10.1080/07434618.2017.1422018.


Personal narrative intervention for older children with Down syndrome

Language disorder is common in children with Down syndrome (DS). Yet, research on language intervention for older children with Down syndrome is lacking, leaving little guidance for the practicing SLP. This feasibility study provides us with some guidance, aimed at improving the personal narratives of older children with DS. Four children with DS participated, aged 10–15, all with MLUs greater than 3.0, intelligibility > 70%, and no other neurological disorders.

Intervention schedule:

  • 18 treatment sessions, 3 times per week for 30–60 minutes per session

  • Sessions divided into six-week blocks, each with specific objectives:

    • First six weeks: noun phrase elaboration and who

    • Middle six weeks: advanced verb phrases and what

    • Last six weeks: conjunctionswhere, and when

Intervention characteristics:

A primary feature of the intervention was heavy use of visual supports. The children were trained and encouraged to create their own visual supports that could later be used to tell personal narratives. Between intervention sessions, the children took pictures with an app on an iPod Touch, to document important or interesting activities in their lives. Narrative maps, created by the clinician, were also used during intervention (simply a paper or whiteboard diagram, with blocks to remind students what to include, e.g. “when, where, who, what, talking [as in “What did people say?”], and feelings”). These visual supports were found to be crucial, adding to “…evidence that suggests individuals with DS have strengths in visual processing that can be leveraged to improve relative weaknesses in narrative language (Chapman et al., 1998; Roberts et al., 2008).”

Session activities:

  • The clinician modeled a personal narrative

    • “The purpose of the models was to demonstrate well-structured, cohesive personal narratives to participants.”

    • Narratives included at least 5 examples of targeted objective (above), and the clinician provided explicit instruction on where grammatical and narrative targets occurred

  • The child retold the adult’s modeled personal narrative

    • With pictures, narrative maps, and clinician instruction/support

  • The child told their own personal narrative

    • With pictures, narrative maps, and clinician instruction/support

    • Clinician reminded student to “…include dialogue, mental state, and the targeted narrative and grammatical goals when telling their personal narrative…”

  • The child participated in a sentence imitation task

    • “…the interventionists prompted participants to imitate 12 sentences, each containing an example of the session’s target grammatical and narrative goals… loosely related to the session’s model personal narrative…”

So, did it “work”? First, recall that this is a study of only four students—so outcomes aren’t yet generalizable. Nonetheless, the researchers examined many language outcomes, including: MLU-M (mean length of utterance in morphemes), percent of on-topic narrative utterances, and several others. They found that, “each participant demonstrated intervention growth on at least one of the dependent variables.” Also, “…participants readily took pictures between sessions and parents reported that they believed these photos helped to support their child’s sharing of a personal event.”

Finestack, L., O’Brien, K.H., Hyppa-Martin, J., & Lyrek, K.A. (2017). The evaluation of a personal narrative language intervention for school-aged children with Down syndrome. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. doi: 10.1352/1944-7558-122.4.310.

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