Though it should be a 12-month goal, this April—during Autism Acceptance Month—it’s important for us to be making strides toward considering what and how our students want to learn. Doing so gears us toward aligning with the client values aspect of Evidence-Based Practice and with implementing therapies that are responsive to neurodiversity.
In this way, it’s helpful to consider the flexible aspects of tools such as Story Grammar Marker®, so that we can show and affirm with clients that there are many ways to express ourselves.
I recently was completing a lesson and activity with a group of middle school students about a topic I consider to be critically important right now: RESILIENCE. Resilience is in many ways wrapped up in narrative language because of the role of how we relate our own experiences (stories) to ourselves. When introducing this visual to the group, one of my more outspoken clients said, “I hate this. It’s so linear and rigid!”
First of all, I sincerely reinforced the heck out of his self-advocacy. I also affirmed, “YES! It probably seems totally not ok for someone to be saying that there is just one way to tell your stories! That is not the point of tools like this. We will look at how there are many ways we can make connections between pieces of stories.” He seemed placated by that, but I have some work to do in convincing him.
For an in-depth look at some of the concepts around student-driven therapy, be sure to check out Abendroth and Whitehead’s (2021) “Motivation, Rapport, and Resilience: Three Pillars of Adolescent Therapy to Shift the Focus to Adulthood.” In this Perspectives-style piece, the authors describe how clinicians can change their interactions to be more collaborative with clients, and thus facilitate greater efficacy and building of skills for maturity.
A therapist I have worked with myself (Therapy Is Dope!) encouraged me to reflect on adverse experiences and my own thinking and response to them with the acronym READ, based on resilience models:
The goal of this paradigm is to build self awareness of what the human brain naturally can do around adversity and negative experiences: push back at them, regret and do a lot of bargaining, and therefore, linger in an uncomfortable place with associated thoughts and feelings.
Moving toward acceptance of tough stories we have experienced helps us have more resilience in the future. You can see in the above image how much this can be considered a narrative process—not necessarily a linear one—rather more cyclical. In any case, the flexibility of MindWing’s Digital Icons helped me show how story parts can be rearranged to align with a model of processing our experiences.
A couple of other examples are below, including a narrative self-model and the kind of visual you can build by receiving, reinforcing and visualizing a student’s story.
Braidy®, SGM® and ThemeMaker® have always been good models of flexibility using story parts/icons, so these examples are just following that lead! (See the sentence frames in the Braidy manual, the Six-Second Story™, and the varied ThemeMaker expository formats and maps.) Cutting and pasting AS your students share experiences is a great way to show that there is way more than one way to tell a story.