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 2014 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.
Clinician tells model story, providing story grammar icons for visual support
Child re-tells the model story, with full support from clinician
Child re-tells the model story, with fading support
Child independently re-tells the model story
Child generates a personal narrative related to model story while clinician sketches visual cues
Child re-tells narrative with full support
Child re-tells narrative with fading support
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.
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, 45(1), 67–86.