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. Advance online publication: doi: 10.1177/1525740116669114.