Special Needs Families: Storytelling

Angelyn Harrenstein by Angelyn Harrenstein Additional Needs

Angelyn Harrenstein

Angelyn Harrenstein

I am a wife and mother to two children. I believe there is always, always, always something to be thankful for.

As it turns out, I had never heard of it because we live in the United States, and storytelling week takes place in the U.K.

The subject was intriguing anyway as my background includes early childhood and elementary education.  I was a kindergarten teacher for the four years prior to having our first child.

As an educator, I understand the importance of reading aloud to children, even before they are born.

There are so many fun ways to get children involved in storytelling, even if they are non-verbal or have other special needs that prevent them from reading a book aloud themselves.

Here are some fairly simple suggestions on ways to include your entire family in storytelling week.

1. Choose a story.

The entire family could choose a favorite book or story to be the focus of your storytelling week.  Or, everyone could name a favorite story to be told on different nights of the week celebrating Storytelling Week.

2. Think of fun ways to tell stories. 

If I was doing this with my family, I would simply read the book aloud the first day.  The next day we would make up a silly song about the story being told.  Another idea is to tell it in different voices, like whispering, or talking like a mouse.  Using homemade puppets to tell the story in the form of a puppet show is a fun way to retell the story.  Or act it out yourselves!  I like the idea of learning sign language for a phrase or word that occurs over and over in the book.

3. Find ways to include and involve your child with special needs in the storytelling. 

Just because your child may be nonverbal doesn’t mean he or she cannot participate in the fun.

Our son is nonverbal.  He can tell wonderful stories without saying a word.

One way he does this is through his facial expressions and body language.  Another way we can involve him in telling stories is with the use of tools.

He has a switch (found here) called the Step-by-Step that allows us to program up to five phrases.

When the switch is pushed, a phrase is played.  We have programmed a phrase from a story that is repeated so he can push the switch when it is time for the phrase to be read.

We have also programmed parts of a song so that each time the switch is activated one part of the song is sung, until the entire song is through.

Another way we have used it is recording the phrase “turn the page.”  Our son can then push the switch when it is time to turn to the next page of a book.

Take advantage of the fun available to your family during Storytelling Week.

Maybe check out a local play or story time at your local library.

Or, create your own fun with some of the ideas above with your family.

Here is the Society for Storytelling website with some additional materials and ideas.


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