Storysharing is an innovative communication method based on personal narrative that enables and empowers individuals. Perhaps most importantly, it helps us have conversations with people who have severe difficulties in communication.
It is centred around small stories of events in our lives that we all share with other people to:-
- Remember together
- Make links with other people
- Make sense of what has happened
- Create meanings
- Create a shared history of our community
- Develop our identity
Storysharing is very simple – you spend time with a person to remember something interesting, and help them to add their own thoughts and feelings as you tell the story.
What changes when we use Storysharing?
People with severe communication difficulties get excluded a lot.
Their conversations are usually about:
- Wants, needs and choice making
- Basic social exchanges – saying hello, making jokes, compliments
- Managing behaviour and expressing feelings
This exclusion can be isolating. Being included in ordinary conversation enables us to connect and make friends.
Through telling stories and listening to stories, we can relate to others and find a connection. When we tell someone a story, they listen and respond to us. Through this, we feel like part of a community of others who feel the same way or have experienced the same as us.
Why do we need Storysharing?
Storysharing developed through watching and listening to ordinary people telling stories—and noticing that this rarely happened with people who had severe and profound disabilities.
Why don’t people tell stories?
It’s not just about impairments!
Of course, memory and communication skills play a part. But actually there are many other reasons why someone might not be able to tell their stories: –
- Daily lives are often so routine that there’s not much to remember
- Even when interesting things happen, they may not be noticed
- People have limited opportunities to make things happen themselves
- Support or teaching staff may be worried about upsetting or overexciting someone, or reinforcing a bad memory
- People are not sure how to do it—they tell the anecdotes to each other, but how do you start with people who can’t speak or attend well?
To enable these individuals to express themselves with stories, we started running groups in a day centre. We used multisensory techniques involving a simple communication aid, a few props and lots of animated talk, with pauses and prompting and lots of repetition. These were very successful—and the techniques of Storysharing have now been developed through courses that run over time in residential homes and in staff training.
How do you do Storysharing?
Storysharing celebrates the little, everyday, reportable things we see and do – placing value on peer groups, active listening, and self-esteem. Storysharing requires us to work as communication partners and the process begins with gathering significant stories to share.
The great thing about Storysharing is that you get to tell the story with the person who needs support as partners: you enable their contributions using a range of specific approaches and techniques.
Therefore we find that good listening is an important part of the process. Stories can be repeated as many times as you like – it’s good to find new listeners.
By using Storysharing techniques, you can create records, portfolios and archives of stories using many different skills. We recommend using art, objects, technology, scrapbooks and personal books, but you will come to realise that there are many more unique ways of sharing stories.
What people say about Storysharing.
“A way to socialise and enhance your communication and friendship.”
“Sharing experiences expressively in a safe environment while learning essential skills.”
“Learning to listen and understand that people want to hear peoples’ stories.”
‘They have got an idea about chatting in a way that is personal and has an emotion attached to it rather than just sitting and watching the world go by.”
“… it’s making them more confident. It’s teaching them not to be adult pleasers, yes/no, we’re making them confident communicators because nothing is wrong.”
“He’s going up to other kids in the playground, he’s got a little friend now, they look out for each other. He’s been given this voice and got that confidence to go up to people and chat.”
“A wonderful way to enable respectful, creative, emotional interactions – beautiful.”
This film, made with the Storysharing ambassadors at Three Ways School in Bath, demonstrates the ten techniques of Storysharing.
We offer certified training in Storysharing at three levels. This training is aimed at staff in special education and organisations that provide care, support and services for adults with communication needs. There are also two introductory packages.
In the first instance, we offer a short introduction to the basic principles and expected outcomes of using Storysharing with adults and children with special educational needs. This taster session can be delivered as a ‘twilight’ session in schools.
Storysharing in service training day for schools
We offer a choice of either a whole or half day session detailing practical examples of how Storysharing techniques can be actively embedded in a person-centred curriculum. This can help to give young people a voice in their personalised EHC plans.
This training can lead directly into level one training for nominated staff.
Level one is for practitioners – people who wish to use Storysharing methods in their daily work. You learn to use the ten strategies of Storysharing, valuing personal stories and becoming an effective communication partner.
Level two is for co-ordinators – people who wish to manage Storysharing sessions in learning or social care environments. You learn to source appropriate stories, manage sessions, and develop the model in your workplace.
Level three is for trainers, who wish to train their workforce to level one or two. You work closely with the Openstorytellers team to understand the history, process, principles and ethos behind Storysharing and our training methods.
References: further reading
Grove, N. (2014) The Big Book of Storysharing. London: Speechmark.
Grove. N, Harwood, J., Ross, V., Peacey, L. & Jones, M. (2010). Sharing stories of everyday life with adults and children who have severe/profound intellectual disabilities. In V. Prasher (ed) Contemporary Issues in Intellectual Disabilities. New York: Nova Publishers. pp. 225-230.
Exploring the absence of high points in story reminiscence with carers of people with profound disabilities Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 4, 252-259 Grove, N. & Harwood, J. (2007)
Grove, N. & Harwood, J. (2013) Storysharing: Personal narratives for identity and community. In N.Grove, (Ed) (2013) Using Storytelling to Support Children and Adults with Special Needs Transforming lives through telling tales. London: Taylor and Francis. (pp. 102-110).