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WoolC

When narration doesn’t work

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I’ve homeschooled ds 10 since kindergarten.  I’ve always been drawn to CM and have attempted to follow her methods more or less but my son is on the autism spectrum ( the PDA profile describes him well, if you’re familiar with it) and he just won’t/can’t narrate.  I’ve read CM’s volumes and Know and Tell by Karen Glass.  I’ve offered LEGO minifigures for acting out the story, drawing pictures of stories, the bookmarks with narration prompts, etc, etc, but haven’t been successful.  I’ve backed off for long stretches of time and tried again with short, easy stories, all to no avail.

He can answer Memoria Press style comprehension questions and he can tell back a story that he’s really interested in to his grandma or a friend, just not when prompted in school hours.  I think the open ended nature of narration produces anxiety and inability to perform.  This fits with the anxiety/PDA model pretty well.  I would like to drop narration and find something that works for my son but I’m not sure what that would look like.  I would like to avoid dry workbook type comprehension questions and busy work while still guiding him in producing some form of output for our history, literature and science readings.  He does map work for our geography readings.  I’d love something that is more discussion based, but with some scaffolding for his thoughts.  For those that don’t primarily use narration, what kind of resources and assignments do you use?  I’d like to get him comfortable with some form of consistent output this year before beginning a formal writing curriculum with him in the 5th grade.

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Could you give him a story map to use as a prompt?  I linked a sample just in case you don't know what I'm talking about, but sometimes having even just a blank one sitting in front of them can help generate a simple, orderly narration (either written or oral).

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He has narrative language deficits. There's the Test of Narrative Language for it and it's treated by SLPs using materials like

https://mindwingconcepts.com/collections/social-communication/products/autism-3-books-only 

https://usu-works.mybigcommerce.com/order-the-updated-skill-manual-3rd-edition-with-new-online-digital-materials/

The MW/Story Grammar Marker people have TONS of free stuff on their blog, terrific youtube videos where they explain how it all works. You almost don't need to buy anything they put out so much, lol. 

https://mindwingconcepts.com/pages/methodology  This link has a good overview and you should be able to see how narrative development leads into expository. Some kids can work backward, going from expository to narrative.

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Narration did not work for my neurotypical kids. I was a big fan of Charlotte Mason but I just could not make narration work for us. My answer was to switch to workbook/textbook curricula for subjects that I wanted output from. We also just did more simply reading good books without requiring output. 

Susan in TX

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2 hours ago, PeterPan said:

He has narrative language deficits. There's the Test of Narrative Language for it and it's treated by SLPs using materials like

https://mindwingconcepts.com/collections/social-communication/products/autism-3-books-only 

https://usu-works.mybigcommerce.com/order-the-updated-skill-manual-3rd-edition-with-new-online-digital-materials/

The MW/Story Grammar Marker people have TONS of free stuff on their blog, terrific youtube videos where they explain how it all works. You almost don't need to buy anything they put out so much, lol. 

https://mindwingconcepts.com/pages/methodology  This link has a good overview and you should be able to see how narrative development leads into expository. Some kids can work backward, going from expository to narrative.

Seconding this very, very strongly! 

We are seeing life-changing results with this program. That sounds like an overstatement, but it's really true. We are using it with a tutor though and started it with a speech therapist because my son's abilities with language were all over. As in, his abilities with language were both really far ahead and really far behind and everything in between depending on what was tested. He has autism, ADHD, and is gifted. 

The TNL test is wonderful, and I would also recommend the Test of Problem Solving. The Mindwing products are super flexible and very comprehensive--they have individual products and sets that can be combined, bought a little at a time, etc., and they will talk to you to help you figure out what you need to buy. 

I would not waste a lot of time with using "regular" materials for this with autism in the mix. 

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3 hours ago, HomeAgain said:

Could you give him a story map to use as a prompt?  I linked a sample just in case you don't know what I'm talking about, but sometimes having even just a blank one sitting in front of them can help generate a simple, orderly narration (either written or oral).

I think this is great advice for most kids with small difficulties. With kids who have greater difficulties, it can give a false positive where it seems to be working but isn't enough.

The Story Grammar stuff is like having the most flexible story map ever as it grows and develops with the child, and you can literally go back to it for just about anything they'll ever need for organizing their thoughts. At the same time, the program breaks each step down farther than any story map or graphic organizer ever and teaches every single step. 

My son started with interventions like story maps, and he would seem to be okay until he had to do it alone. It just left him high and dry. During conversation about using the story maps, he'd pick up on the stuff he was missing and be able to reuse it himself. But doing it solo, those parts were missing. 

With the Story Grammar stuff, the tool teaches how to identify and think through all the parts and pieces, and it eventually cultivates the critical thinking pieces that a story map assumes are already there to some extent.

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1 hour ago, kbutton said:

I think this is great advice for most kids with small difficulties. With kids who have greater difficulties, it can give a false positive where it seems to be working but isn't enough.

The Story Grammar stuff is like having the most flexible story map ever as it grows and develops with the child, and you can literally go back to it for just about anything they'll ever need for organizing their thoughts. At the same time, the program breaks each step down farther than any story map or graphic organizer ever and teaches every single step. 

My son started with interventions like story maps, and he would seem to be okay until he had to do it alone. It just left him high and dry. During conversation about using the story maps, he'd pick up on the stuff he was missing and be able to reuse it himself. But doing it solo, those parts were missing. 

With the Story Grammar stuff, the tool teaches how to identify and think through all the parts and pieces, and it eventually cultivates the critical thinking pieces that a story map assumes are already there to some extent.

 

I’ve been looking around the Story Grammar site trying to get a feel for everything.  Would this work to use on our own or are the tests and tutoring necessary for this program?  We’re also dealing with selective mutism (I’ve posted about this over on the special needs board in the past) so tutoring and testing really aren’t good options for us.  I’d love to have more info on what my son is struggling with specifically, but I’m pretty much going off of my own observations with him.

Thank you for the suggestions!

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4 hours ago, PeterPan said:

He has narrative language deficits. There's the Test of Narrative Language for it and it's treated by SLPs using materials like

https://mindwingconcepts.com/collections/social-communication/products/autism-3-books-only 

https://usu-works.mybigcommerce.com/order-the-updated-skill-manual-3rd-edition-with-new-online-digital-materials/

The MW/Story Grammar Marker people have TONS of free stuff on their blog, terrific youtube videos where they explain how it all works. You almost don't need to buy anything they put out so much, lol. 

https://mindwingconcepts.com/pages/methodology  This link has a good overview and you should be able to see how narrative development leads into expository. Some kids can work backward, going from expository to narrative.

Thank you for the links.  The story grammar program looks promising.  He actually does better with expository.  He is more likely to tell me something from a book about animals than anything else.

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1 hour ago, WoolC said:

Thank you for the links.  The story grammar program looks promising.  He actually does better with expository.  He is more likely to tell me something from a book about animals than anything else.

So look at the Thememaker chart on that methodology page (3rd link) and you'll see she converts the narrative elements into the elements of expository writing. So if a dc is at say stages 1-3 of narrative, then he could do the first four expository structures (descriptive, compare/contrast, list, sequence), but NOT be ready to move over to cause/effect, persuasion, etc. Those would require elements he hasn't yet done. Or if he is doing those structures in expository, then that means there's a foundation for you to move it over to narrative. 

The whole system is going to make the components more explicit so you can see where he's at and he can see what he's doing, whether he's writing expository or narrative.

See where he's at in the expository structures she lists on the Thememaker graphic and report back. I'd be interested. I bumped my ds up some this year with narrative but we didn't get to expository. Moreau said these kids tend to be much stronger on expository, that it's fine to work backward like that from an area of strength. So placing him in the expository development and then working backward and saying how do we get narrative going forward can really work.

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2 hours ago, WoolC said:

I’ve been looking around the Story Grammar site trying to get a feel for everything.  Would this work to use on our own or are the tests and tutoring necessary for this program?  We’re also dealing with selective mutism (I’ve posted about this over on the special needs board in the past) so tutoring and testing really aren’t good options for us.  I’d love to have more info on what my son is struggling with specifically, but I’m pretty much going off of my own observations with him.

Thank you for the suggestions!

You can do it yourself. The manuals in the kit are fine and come with a ton of great downloads. If budget is low, you can technically learn enough just off the website if you keep reading. Make sure you watch all their youtube videos. Look through their blog too.

Remember, it's a concept, not a curriculum. You can use it with ANYTHING that works for him. You can also drop the requirement to speak it and let him type, make powerpoints together, whatever. I was just looking at an animation some kids made in camp and was thinking how well that would work for narratives. So feel free to modify, definitely.

The only thing that really trips people up is they sit there doing analysis and not actually producing narratives or some kind of connected output. If you train him on analysis and not on connected expression, that's all you'll have is analysis. Unfortunately, getting it out as connected narrative is the hard part. If you ask Moreau, she's going to say to start exactly where he is in the developmental sequence and to move him forward through the stages of the developmental sequence. So you never expect him to do more than the next step.

Most other approaches (including SKILL, which has a lot of great brains behind it) want to frontload EVERYTHING and expect the whole enchilada. I personally think presenting it in stages, getting a stage solid, getting that stage carried over to real life in lots of real ways, THEN moving on to the next stage, makes sense and is the least stressful. Otherwise, to me you end up with kids making a lot of pieces but not necessarily having the usage make sense. It just takes longer to go through the stages, and schools and school intervention is all about quick in, quick out, get it done. They don't have time to go through stages of development like we do. But if you want to lower stress, that's a way, expecting only the current or next developmental stage and taking time to apply it till it's really natural.

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14 hours ago, WoolC said:

 

I’ve been looking around the Story Grammar site trying to get a feel for everything.  Would this work to use on our own or are the tests and tutoring necessary for this program?  We’re also dealing with selective mutism (I’ve posted about this over on the special needs board in the past) so tutoring and testing really aren’t good options for us.  I’d love to have more info on what my son is struggling with specifically, but I’m pretty much going off of my own observations with him.

Thank you for the suggestions!

Yes, you can. I am using it with a tutor because it's not super intuitive to me, I have access to one, and I have many other things to implement (though I can watch him do the stuff with someone else and understand what they are doing and even sometimes help troubleshoot if he's stuck). 

If I was the only one that could work with him, I would probably need their training, but that is me, and that is me with language development--it's not my strong suit. I think I can take parts and pieces of it and use it as long it's a level he's already pretty comfortable with.

Obviously Peter Pan finds it more intuitive. Our tutor finds it intuitive, and she is not an SLP. Our SLP found it to be a very useful tool, but she did not find using it with my son to be intuitive at first, but that wasn't her niche within speech therapy. 

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21 hours ago, PeterPan said:

So look at the Thememaker chart on that methodology page (3rd link) and you'll see she converts the narrative elements into the elements of expository writing. So if a dc is at say stages 1-3 of narrative, then he could do the first four expository structures (descriptive, compare/contrast, list, sequence), but NOT be ready to move over to cause/effect, persuasion, etc. Those would require elements he hasn't yet done. Or if he is doing those structures in expository, then that means there's a foundation for you to move it over to narrative. 

The whole system is going to make the components more explicit so you can see where he's at and he can see what he's doing, whether he's writing expository or narrative.

See where he's at in the expository structures she lists on the Thememaker graphic and report back. I'd be interested. I bumped my ds up some this year with narrative but we didn't get to expository. Moreau said these kids tend to be much stronger on expository, that it's fine to work backward like that from an area of strength. So placing him in the expository development and then working backward and saying how do we get narrative going forward can really work.

 

He’s able to do description, list, sequence and compare/contrast.  I do think I’ve heard him tell cause and effect as well.  What I get from him on a given day in a school setting is very inconsistent since we’ve been attempting to use narration, without my guiding him through specific prompts or story mapping of any kind.  

Outside of school time, I have heard him narrate events, tv shows, movies and free read books such as Chronicles of Narnia, The Wilderking Trilogy, and The Summer of the Monkeys totally unprompted.  In these cases he is describing characters, setting, action, sequencing and resolution, not necessarily all of these components every time, but he has used them in his descriptions of things.  If this is the case, does it still suggest a narrative deficit, or simply an issue with me prompting him to narrate?  This is where I struggle to figure him out.   I’ll continue to look around the site and watch the YouTube videos and see what I can incorporate to move him along, so thank you for that!

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6 hours ago, WoolC said:

 

He’s able to do description, list, sequence and compare/contrast.  I do think I’ve heard him tell cause and effect as well.  What I get from him on a given day in a school setting is very inconsistent since we’ve been attempting to use narration, without my guiding him through specific prompts or story mapping of any kind.  

Outside of school time, I have heard him narrate events, tv shows, movies and free read books such as Chronicles of Narnia, The Wilderking Trilogy, and The Summer of the Monkeys totally unprompted.  In these cases he is describing characters, setting, action, sequencing and resolution, not necessarily all of these components every time, but he has used them in his descriptions of things.  If this is the case, does it still suggest a narrative deficit, or simply an issue with me prompting him to narrate?  This is where I struggle to figure him out.   I’ll continue to look around the site and watch the YouTube videos and see what I can incorporate to move him along, so thank you for that!

It almost sounds like he's nailing action and reactive sequences and fledgling on abbreviated sequences. And that fits with what you're saying about his expository, that he can do the basics and is fledgling on cause/effect. 

What you're wanting/expecting in your mind is the "complete episode" stage, and he's 1-2 before that, which is why he's cranking out SOMETHING, just not quite what you expect. 

So I've had the TNL=Test of Narrative Language done on my ds a couple times. It gives some good info, but you're already seeing, just by looking at the charts, that he has some deficits. He's stuck and to go forward he could use explicit instruction. 

The Autism collection (3 books) from MW/SGM would probably be your best bet, because it's meant for him, spends a lot of time weaving in social thinking, and has useful printables. They show the instruction points you need and the syntax and language issues you may need to work on to get him there. 

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I was also going to ask, is there a gap between what he's doing in real life (that abbreviated stage) vs. what he's doing for you for academics? Is there a difference in the language complexity or level of comprehension or engagement? Attention can be a BIG DEAL with comprehension and narration. My dd would have zilcho, zero to narrate if she read something without attending to it. You may have layers like that to attend to.

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Ok, so if you want to explore the crux of it, reality is random, CM-style, WTM-style narrations don't *teach* and take the student through the natural stages of narration at all. They provide a backdrop where the student can *practice* his naturally developing language skills, sure. So if a student happens to get through all the stages of narrative development with WTM, Classical Writing, all the opportunities we use, it's because they were developing the skills naturally, acquiring the language naturally.

The printables for the SGM/MW/ASD stuff give you all the information on language development required at each stage so you can make sure he has all the pieces he needs to be able to do the next step. For instance, descriptive narrativesrequire nouns and adjectives. Action sequences require (no shock) verbs. So some kids like mine glitch at that stage, because they struggle with those parts of language and can't even get out of the box. We worked on the language (with speech therapy materials), came back, and boom with some slight instruction and provocation he could begin to do action and description sequences and generalize them to everyday speech. Your reactive sequence adds adverbs, the abbreviated dependent clauses and feelings, linguistic verbs, and mental states. And so on.

The printables will include all that information, but it's why the materials are worth buying. There are kits on TPT for story elements, but they aren't going to connect those dots for you on what the language issues are and what language pieces are needed to do them and why he's not moving forward. That's where SLP materials come in, and someone can seem to have a LOT OF LANGUAGE and still benefit from these materials. 

I'm explaining all this because it took me a while to wrap my brain around, lol. Once you get it, suddenly everything makes sense and it's obvious how to jump in and get the kid moving forward. The syntax develops in a progression, the narratives develop along with it, you find the glitch, hit the gas on it, and the whole thing can go forward.

How is his reading comprehension? Besides safety and writing and pain in the butt things, the other area narrative language affects is reading comprehension. Kids can stall out on their reading development. I'm not saying analyze every book he reads for story grammar, haha. However I am noticing that when I control for syntax via lexile levels the narrative stage also is controlled. 

Edited by PeterPan
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18 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

Ok, so if you want to explore the crux of it, reality is random, CM-style, WTM-style narrations don't *teach* and take the student through the natural stages of narration at all. They provide a backdrop where the student can *practice* his naturally developing language skills, sure. So if a student happens to get through all the stages of narrative development with WTM, Classical Writing, all the opportunities we use, it's because they were developing the skills naturally, acquiring the language naturally.

The printables for the SGM/MW/ASD stuff give you all the information on language development required at each stage so you can make sure he has all the pieces he needs to be able to do the next step. For instance, descriptive narrativesrequire nouns and adjectives. Action sequences require (no shock) verbs. So some kids like mine glitch at that stage, because they struggle with those parts of language and can't even get out of the box. We worked on the language (with speech therapy materials), came back, and boom with some slight instruction and provocation he could begin to do action and description sequences and generalize them to everyday speech. Your reactive sequence adds adverbs, the abbreviated dependent clauses and feelings, linguistic verbs, and mental states. And so on.

The printables will include all that information, but it's why the materials are worth buying. There are kits on TPT for story elements, but they aren't going to connect those dots for you on what the language issues are and what language pieces are needed to do them and why he's not moving forward. That's where SLP materials come in, and someone can seem to have a LOT OF LANGUAGE and still benefit from these materials. 

I'm explaining all this because it took me a while to wrap my brain around, lol. Once you get it, suddenly everything makes sense and it's obvious how to jump in and get the kid moving forward. The syntax develops in a progression, the narratives develop along with it, you find the glitch, hit the gas on it, and the whole thing can go forward.

How is his reading comprehension? Besides safety and writing and pain in the butt things, the other area narrative language affects is reading comprehension. Kids can stall out on their reading development. I'm not saying analyze every book he reads for story grammar, haha. However I am noticing that when I control for syntax via lexile levels the narrative stage also is controlled. 

 

Right, this is exactly what I’ve been wrestling with.  WTM style narrations were a total flop with him when we tried them when he was 6 or so, and CM style is the same problem.  There is no explicit teaching in how to narrate.  However, as the years have gone on I’ve noticed him giving good narrations of various books, shows, etc but always outside of school time, unprompted by me.  It has to be his idea to convey information to someone else.  So maybe at the dinner table he tells his dad about a funny story we’re reading, or he tells his grandma about the latest chapter in our bedtime read aloud.  So he does have the narrative ability, and it’s generalized into everyday life.  

Now, in school time I can do a reading and he will outright refuse to tell anything from the reading.  He enjoys the readings, asks for more chapters, etc.  I don’t think this is an attention issue.  His latest standardized test placed him in the 90th percentile for reading comprehension.  I think the breakdown might not be a narrative deficit but instead stemming from anxiety/pathological demand avoidance type shutdowns.  Another example of refusal for him, he will not repeat the Pledge of Allegiance, a Bible verse, a song, basically any prompted words for the purpose of recitation.  The only thing that leads me to believe that more scaffolding may be needed is that we’ve had limited success with IEW type structure.  

 I really can’t break down what is lagging skills vs anxiety refusal.  Of all of the challenges we’ve faced with his autism, selective mutism is by far the most challenging to work around.  I was thinking if the issue is anxiety refusal, then my best bet might be dropping narration altogether for some other kind of output, at least for now.  I just don’t know what that would even look like because I’ve invested in narration for so long.  I would assume if the issue was a language glitch then he would have that glitch across settings and not only in settings where I’m prompting him to speak? 

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7 minutes ago, WoolC said:

 Another example of refusal for him, he will not repeat the Pledge of Allegiance, a Bible verse, a song, basically any prompted words for the purpose of recitation.

Ability to repeat a sentence is directly linked to language level.

8 minutes ago, WoolC said:

So he does have the narrative ability

Narrative language develops in stages and his everyday narratives are still behind, not yet to complete episodes, at least from what you're describing. You'd like to get that moving forward.

8 minutes ago, WoolC said:

 I really can’t break down what is lagging skills vs anxiety refusal.

They're mixing together.

11 minutes ago, WoolC said:

 I just don’t know what that would even look like because I’ve invested in narration for so long.

If you haven't actually TAUGHT narration, using intervention materials, then I would do that first. It can be very subtle, only in what interests him. 

11 minutes ago, WoolC said:

 Of all of the challenges we’ve faced with his autism, selective mutism is by far the most challenging to work around.

I'm not an SLP and haven't worked with selective mutism, however both my kids have their language drop when they're stressed. It's actually much, much worse for my dd, I think compounded by her low processing speed and word retrieval issues. So I'm with you that stress is a huge part.

So my suggestion would be to get the materials (or wrap your brain around the methodology using what's on the site, but getting the materials would be better), and to find naturalistic, calm, low stress ways to weave it in. You're probably going to triage and figure out what is next. I think I agree with you that putting him on the spot in a "produce now" kind of way probably is increasing stress and might not be the way to go. If he can do it for just a few minutes at a time to practice the skill you want to target (which you can find with the materials, because you're going to laser in on what he needs for the next step), then you could do it just for that few minutes.

I think because he's still not doing complete episodes in everyday speech you'd like to get that going forward. But I agree with you the mutism and shut down and stress plays a part. I think having scaffolded, very clear expectations that are in-reach can help. Yes, absolutely the narratives could be done other ways!! Tech is fine, legos are fine, playmobil is fine, pictures are fine, animated stories with Toon Boom https://www.toonboom.com/products/harmony/pricing , yes,whatever he likes. 

This is just a question, because I don't know. When he's experiencing his mutism, does tech, AAC, texting, etc work for him? My dd uses texting when her language drops. If you google someone like Chloe Rothschild, she uses AAC of various kinds when she's speaking and her language drops. She'll be talking and then just stop and switch over. I think it's way more common than people realize and maybe normalize that if it works for him, kwim? There's some AAC software that is more teen/adult friendly that he could look into. Proloque2 I think. We don't have to be talking LAMP.

So yes, I think you're sorting it out clearly that it's complex and that he has ALL the factors going.

-social emotional learning--needs the language and awareness to bring to the critical thinking triangle

-syntax, semantics, vocabulary--needs to move forward into the more complex syntax necessary to form complete narratives

-anxiety, compliance/opposition, mutism--not to be lumped together but just that I agree they all factor in

-narrative language development--he's fledgling, formative at the Abbreviated sequence stage and you'd like to see him moving forward to complete episodes.

I agree with you that shutting him down in forced narration is not useful. For my ds, I have *brief* narration expectations when I read aloud, but only because I'm doing the read aloud to work on narration. If I'm not, like say it's picture books to work on SEL=social emotional learning, then I might have zero narrative expectation. I might have a really targeted question that ONLY hits the language I'm exactly working on. (what was her plan, she did this because...) But I haven't worked with mutism. I think wrap your head around the material, look at him, and you'll know what you ought to do. That's all anyone can do, sigh.

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So to unpack my cryptic "ability to repeat a sentence is linked to language level" assertion, haha, well it could take a while. You can google it. It's a known gig. 

Like I've said (in other posts), my ds' language deficits were very hard to identify because he had so much MEMORIZED language. He was scripting brilliantly, riffing memorized content. So if he was talking about something he had preloaded language on (via tv, via audiobooks), tons would come out. If you just tried to have a conversation, the entire MLU (mean length utterance) went in the toilet.

For us the SPELT=structured photographic expressive language test finally busted it open, because we could see he was failing and not able to produce original language using the structures when led into them with reasonable pictures prompts. It's a test that most kids by 8-10 pass at such high rate that it has this funky skewed bell curve. We've worked on language a year, made HUGE gains, and he STILL failed. Sigh.

In other words, even a 6 yo has more complex language than my ds. But my ds is going to lecture you on WW2 and say sophisticated things he heard on tv about physics, so you're not going to THINK he has language deficits.

There's also this mystique, this idea that kids with autism have scads of language that's just not coming out. Not for my kid. 

So I don't know. I'm not an SLP, and frankly I've been through so many SLPs I think THEY don't know. Right now I'm writing researchers, phd SLPs, any time I find something useful provocative. There's a lot they don't know. I think it's ok to innovate, to dig, to go with your gut. You're basically doing phd work, the stuff they themselves are trying to figure out. No pat answers, just learning the issues and looking at your kid.

So yes, if you google on ability to repeat a sentence, it's directly tied to language development. My ds was at the extreme. Like he had all the motor planning, but he would struggle to repeat 2 words. Yet if he memorized it from an audiobook, he could repeat PARAGRAPHS. Ugh. But the two words, the on the spot, reflected where his expressive language really is. So it's statistically correlated, and the answer is working on language, not on the repeating. The repeating is just kind of torture, a fruit.

So what is rational and reasonable in your case? I don't know your kid. My ds CAN speak and has language deficits. So as I intervene on the language deficits more language comes out. I think it's perfectly valid for you to draw a line in the sand that reflects mental health and wholeness. I don't know where that line is for you. I think you are the parent and you make that call. I think it would be interesting to know if tech makes a difference, and I think you can look into the MW/SGM/ASD stuff and see if working on that a dab would make a difference. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of great things for working on syntax in ASD. You'd think there would be, and I can't find them. I've been sweating bullets for months trying to decide how to proceed, because all the stuff I have is crap, worthless, not even close to good enough.

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8 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

Ability to repeat a sentence is directly linked to language level.

Narrative language develops in stages and his everyday narratives are still behind, not yet to complete episodes, at least from what you're describing. You'd like to get that moving forward.

They're mixing together.

If you haven't actually TAUGHT narration, using intervention materials, then I would do that first. It can be very subtle, only in what interests him. 

I'm not an SLP and haven't worked with selective mutism, however both my kids have their language drop when they're stressed. It's actually much, much worse for my dd, I think compounded by her low processing speed and word retrieval issues. So I'm with you that stress is a huge part.

So my suggestion would be to get the materials (or wrap your brain around the methodology using what's on the site, but getting the materials would be better), and to find naturalistic, calm, low stress ways to weave it in. You're probably going to triage and figure out what is next. I think I agree with you that putting him on the spot in a "produce now" kind of way probably is increasing stress and might not be the way to go. If he can do it for just a few minutes at a time to practice the skill you want to target (which you can find with the materials, because you're going to laser in on what he needs for the next step), then you could do it just for that few minutes.

I think because he's still not doing complete episodes in everyday speech you'd like to get that going forward. But I agree with you the mutism and shut down and stress plays a part. I think having scaffolded, very clear expectations that are in-reach can help. Yes, absolutely the narratives could be done other ways!! Tech is fine, legos are fine, playmobil is fine, pictures are fine, animated stories with Toon Boom https://www.toonboom.com/products/harmony/pricing , yes,whatever he likes. 

This is just a question, because I don't know. When he's experiencing his mutism, does tech, AAC, texting, etc work for him? My dd uses texting when her language drops. If you google someone like Chloe Rothschild, she uses AAC of various kinds when she's speaking and her language drops. She'll be talking and then just stop and switch over. I think it's way more common than people realize and maybe normalize that if it works for him, kwim? There's some AAC software that is more teen/adult friendly that he could look into. Proloque2 I think. We don't have to be talking LAMP.

So yes, I think you're sorting it out clearly that it's complex and that he has ALL the factors going.

-social emotional learning--needs the language and awareness to bring to the critical thinking triangle

-syntax, semantics, vocabulary--needs to move forward into the more complex syntax necessary to form complete narratives

-anxiety, compliance/opposition, mutism--not to be lumped together but just that I agree they all factor in

-narrative language development--he's fledgling, formative at the Abbreviated sequence stage and you'd like to see him moving forward to complete episodes.

I agree with you that shutting him down in forced narration is not useful. For my ds, I have *brief* narration expectations when I read aloud, but only because I'm doing the read aloud to work on narration. If I'm not, like say it's picture books to work on SEL=social emotional learning, then I might have zero narrative expectation. I might have a really targeted question that ONLY hits the language I'm exactly working on. (what was her plan, she did this because...) But I haven't worked with mutism. I think wrap your head around the material, look at him, and you'll know what you ought to do. That's all anyone can do, sigh.

 

Thanks for taking the time to help me sort all of this out.  

He doesn’t really use tech yet to help with speech.  I tried giving him a picture system a few years ago to use when he doesn’t have speech but he was resistant to using them.  I have him learning typing now, which he hates so far, sigh.  

It really is complex, but yes more explicit instruction is a step in the right direction, so I will get started with the MindWing materials.  The animated stories look like something he would be into so I’ll give that a try too.

We’re heading out to church now, so I’m responding in a bit of a rush.  I’ll check back in this afternoon!

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25 minutes ago, WoolC said:

He doesn’t really use tech yet to help with speech.  I tried giving him a picture system a few years ago to use when he doesn’t have speech but he was resistant to using them.  I have him learning typing now, which he hates so far, sigh.  

Ok, so I can tell you what happened with us. My ds has apraxia, and we were told for years or implied for years or assumed for years that it was motor planning, that when the motor planning was there, boom the speech would roll out like Winston Churchill.

Well what finally made things gel for me was buying LAMP, because I handed it to him and realized he could do NOTHING with it. He couldn't form sentences with it. He couldn't use it because the language WASN'T THERE. It wasn't in him to come out, so handing him the tech didn't unleash him. Now you can *use* AAC to teach language, sure. SLPs do this all the time. But it's not going to make come out what isn't in there. 

So that was the final straw for me, when I realized it wasn't only motor planning, that my ds just flat didn't have the language.

And it would be ironic if your situation is complex like that. I don't know what is appropriate for your ds. You can read what I did with my ds, because I shared it all in threads on LC. But to say oh yeah just do that with your ds, well I have no clue if that would be good voodoo or shut him down, kwim? But for me, that was the wake-up call, when I handed him LAMP and realized he couldn't form a sentence. 

So on typing, that's also spelling. There's a video (product intro) I watched on Northern Speech Services that made a lot gel for me. https://www.northernspeech.com/autism-treatment/natural-language-acquisition-in-autism-echolalia-to-self-generated-language-level-1/  That's the link to the little free video. So my ds was going whole to parts instead of parts to whole on language like a more typical learner. Because he was going whole, memorized language to parts, the parts of language like spelling bits didn't make sense to him. He was memorizing jibberish. 

So to type, we need working memory, motor planning, and some comprehension of what we're doing (the parts, the organization, the meaning). Otherwise it's transcribing some unknown language, lol. It's easy for our kids to glitch on a lot of those levels. I used Dvorak, an alternate keyboard layout, with my dd because QWERTY was nonfunctional for her after many years. Its what I'm slowly teaching my ds as well. It's tricky because he's extremely rigid about the idea of the keyboard not being "right". I basically tricked him and pulled the key labels off and rearranged them. I need to hurry up and get his typing done before he figures it out, hmm.

So anyways, for my ds, spelling became kind of natural and interesting as his sense of words as words came in. He had totally missed that parts of words level and that's what we had to recover. So ironically, working on language improved his spelling. I think it's just natural.

34 minutes ago, WoolC said:

It really is complex, but yes more explicit instruction is a step in the right direction, so I will get started with the MindWing materials.  The animated stories look like something he would be into so I’ll give that a try too.

Sounds good! Also keep in mind the language piece. SLPs will use terms like vocabulary, concepts, semantics, syntax, etc. Vocabulary doens't mean knowing a bunch of words, not at least to SLPs, lol. It includes features, function, class, attributes, opposites, etc. The SLPs use one set of terms and the ABA people use another, but it's the same stuff. So if he's having some subtle issues with language, those swanky terms are going to translate into the adjectives (features, categories, etc.), verbs (functions), etc. Concepts become things like prepositions. So we're saying hey he can't repeat this length of sentence, he can't use these in his speech, they're not showing up in his narratives, and that's how we back up. But I don't know how much you need to back up. And how to do it and not set off the anxiety and mutism. 

What I would probably do, just me, is start low and work up on the narrative stages. That way he's having success. Like make little games of it, keep it chilled. 

The MW materials have a Six Second Story organizer in their ASD kit. Language to me is the never-ending pit, the thing we keep working and working on and aren't likely to do perfectly on or ever really win on.  So I like to have some things that are WINS that are maybe in-between steps. So self-advocacy, being able to say what happened, being able to make a statement about your problem, these are things that keep you SAFE. So that was a big goal for me, that my ds be able to go to something with a worker, for camp, whatever, and be able to come back and say 1-2 sentences that really made sense that told what happened. The Six Second Story framework gets you there and it's an achieveable goal, a safety goal. You can have middle of the road goals like this. 

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On 8/4/2019 at 10:59 AM, PeterPan said:

Ok, so I can tell you what happened with us. My ds has apraxia, and we were told for years or implied for years or assumed for years that it was motor planning, that when the motor planning was there, boom the speech would roll out like Winston Churchill.

Well what finally made things gel for me was buying LAMP, because I handed it to him and realized he could do NOTHING with it. He couldn't form sentences with it. He couldn't use it because the language WASN'T THERE. It wasn't in him to come out, so handing him the tech didn't unleash him. Now you can *use* AAC to teach language, sure. SLPs do this all the time. But it's not going to make come out what isn't in there. 

So that was the final straw for me, when I realized it wasn't only motor planning, that my ds just flat didn't have the language.

And it would be ironic if your situation is complex like that. I don't know what is appropriate for your ds. You can read what I did with my ds, because I shared it all in threads on LC. But to say oh yeah just do that with your ds, well I have no clue if that would be good voodoo or shut him down, kwim? But for me, that was the wake-up call, when I handed him LAMP and realized he couldn't form a sentence. 

So on typing, that's also spelling. There's a video (product intro) I watched on Northern Speech Services that made a lot gel for me. https://www.northernspeech.com/autism-treatment/natural-language-acquisition-in-autism-echolalia-to-self-generated-language-level-1/  That's the link to the little free video. So my ds was going whole to parts instead of parts to whole on language like a more typical learner. Because he was going whole, memorized language to parts, the parts of language like spelling bits didn't make sense to him. He was memorizing jibberish. 

So to type, we need working memory, motor planning, and some comprehension of what we're doing (the parts, the organization, the meaning). Otherwise it's transcribing some unknown language, lol. It's easy for our kids to glitch on a lot of those levels. I used Dvorak, an alternate keyboard layout, with my dd because QWERTY was nonfunctional for her after many years. Its what I'm slowly teaching my ds as well. It's tricky because he's extremely rigid about the idea of the keyboard not being "right". I basically tricked him and pulled the key labels off and rearranged them. I need to hurry up and get his typing done before he figures it out, hmm.

So anyways, for my ds, spelling became kind of natural and interesting as his sense of words as words came in. He had totally missed that parts of words level and that's what we had to recover. So ironically, working on language improved his spelling. I think it's just natural.

Sounds good! Also keep in mind the language piece. SLPs will use terms like vocabulary, concepts, semantics, syntax, etc. Vocabulary doens't mean knowing a bunch of words, not at least to SLPs, lol. It includes features, function, class, attributes, opposites, etc. The SLPs use one set of terms and the ABA people use another, but it's the same stuff. So if he's having some subtle issues with language, those swanky terms are going to translate into the adjectives (features, categories, etc.), verbs (functions), etc. Concepts become things like prepositions. So we're saying hey he can't repeat this length of sentence, he can't use these in his speech, they're not showing up in his narratives, and that's how we back up. But I don't know how much you need to back up. And how to do it and not set off the anxiety and mutism. 

What I would probably do, just me, is start low and work up on the narrative stages. That way he's having success. Like make little games of it, keep it chilled. 

The MW materials have a Six Second Story organizer in their ASD kit. Language to me is the never-ending pit, the thing we keep working and working on and aren't likely to do perfectly on or ever really win on.  So I like to have some things that are WINS that are maybe in-between steps. So self-advocacy, being able to say what happened, being able to make a statement about your problem, these are things that keep you SAFE. So that was a big goal for me, that my ds be able to go to something with a worker, for camp, whatever, and be able to come back and say 1-2 sentences that really made sense that told what happened. The Six Second Story framework gets you there and it's an achieveable goal, a safety goal. You can have middle of the road goals like this. 

 

That video was really interesting.  My son does use some phrases or scripts throughout the day that he doesn’t vary at all.  I almost thought of it as an OCD type ritual but it could be more of an echolalia thing.  What you’re saying about spelling and transcribing being like jibberish has been very true for my son as well.  Typical Copywork does nothing for him as he transcribes one letter at a time, never connecting it to the word he’s writing.  Apples and Pears spelling really teaches the chunks and patterns of words and he’s making slow and steady progress with that.  For now, I only have him doing typing.org, he’s still at the level of learning home row keys and space bar, so no spelling required right now.  He just really dislikes learning new skills, he wants to know how to do everything perfectly on the first try...it makes math really fun too, lol.

I purchased the autism kit last night so we’ll get started as soon as I wrap my head around it and see how it goes.  Thanks!

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Did I link you to 100% Vocabulary by Rothstein? http://www.e4thai.com/e4e/images/pdf2/100_vocabulary_primary.pdf  I used it as the spine for our language intervention. You may want to back up and look into this. I expanded each chapter with other workbooks from Linguisystems, especially the Spotlight on Vocabulary series and the SPARC series.

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Narration did not work for my ADHD kids or my ADHD/ASD kiddo.  One of the kids could tell back nearly Word for word, but summarizing, main idea, outlining - soooooo hard and so many tears we changed approach.  I love WTM but classical pedagogy and neoclassical (like WTM) favor certain learning styles and neurobiologies.  Auditory, sequential, analytic, verbal.... these are highly favored and not what most ASD kids are.

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13 hours ago, Targhee said:

Narration did not work for my ADHD kids or my ADHD/ASD kiddo.  One of the kids could tell back nearly Word for word, but summarizing, main idea, outlining - soooooo hard and so many tears we changed approach.  I love WTM but classical pedagogy and neoclassical (like WTM) favor certain learning styles and neurobiologies.  Auditory, sequential, analytic, verbal.... these are highly favored and not what most ASD kids are.

 

What approach did you end up taking that worked for your kids?

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So, narration did not work for either of my kids and they're really different, so I just want to put out there that I think sometimes it's down to language deficits (that's one kid... more on that in a sec) and sometimes it's just not the right fit (that's his twin).

My kid with the language issues is not a kid I'd describe as neuroatypical per se. He's definitely not on the spectrum and definitely doesn't have ADHD. He has some learning disabilities - this is the biggest one. He presents as totally normal in a conversation, in a classroom. You'd never imagine that he is actually struggling to find words. His vocabulary level is very high. He is really smart and insightful. But putting that into words on the spot eludes him and he tends to fake his way through. There's a gap in his processing time. He just takes a bit longer, but then his output speed is pretty normal once he's there. He also has issues with anxiety - which is really his biggest problem. So the interplay there is really tough. It was killer when it came to narration. For him, writing anything was SO much easier than anything oral, first of all. And doing anything that was structured was easier. And I really mean anything. Around age 11, he did Wordsmith Apprentice, which he found really easy and fun. Not too much older than that, we started doing simple outlining and outlining is a tool that works extremely well for him (he hates it... ugh... this is a whole other issue, but it WORKS for his understanding and retention). Also, moving to applied writing and information is much easier for him than the more basic narration and summary. Like, I know that the idea is that you have to write all these summaries before you can write a proper paper and SWB's methods emphasize summary to a massive degree. But ds always struggled with it in its pure form. But a summary for an essay in context of something he's arguing? So much easier for him. You're not far off from that. We really liked Twisting Arms in middle school.

For my kid without any processing issues... he's just a kid in his own head with his own stubborn priorities. Give him a reading about seahorses when he was younger and he'd narrate a summary of ocean tides, something mentioned briefly on page two. Insert eyeroll here. I finally gave him a bunch of standard, public school type summarizing and finding details worksheets and standardized test type books. I think I bought a bunch of them as e-books during Scholastic Dollar Days. Do they still do that? Anyway, explicitly teaching it was really all it took. He could do it after that. However, he also just did much better with structured, but more in depth questions. The outlining is also beneficial to him, though he still has a tendency to sidetrack into his own interests as he reads. So I tend to stick to in depth questions at this point.

Both my kids thrived at that age doing Bravewriter's Partnership Writing, which was super fun and enriching. But is not the same as working on specific skills in an intentional way. It's more working on writing and thinking in a general sense. I think having that sort of approach helped my kids enjoy writing and not find it intimidating, especially for now when their skill set has caught up. Like, they're not winning any essay contests, but both of them can sit down and churn out an essay that's decent without feeling the least daunted right now.

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10 hours ago, WoolC said:

 

What approach did you end up taking that worked for your kids?

Well, writing is still a hard thing for them.  We used MCT grammar and writing books in 3-7th ish grades.  The writing books gave us the global, big picture ideas about writing.  We did a very few select writing tasks from these.  We did creative writing projects, oral projects, projects that used some writing but also visual elements (eg slide shows or Prezi, posters, acting things out, coloring and writing captions, etc).  We also did copywork, read/listened to great literature, and tried to have conversations about things (all ways of getting ideas INTO their heads so later we could get ideas out).  When it came to needing to organize writing for academic writing we used graphic organizers a lot.  

As far as materials that helped (not perfect, but helped), MCT, W&R, Remedia Press Outlining book, LToW, Wordsmith Apprentice.  What did NOT work were WWE or WWS, IEW, WriteShop, or 6-trait daily.

Haphazard answer to your question, but that reflects well on the way we had to go about writing.  My kids actually have a lot of great writing elements - voice, vocabulary, sentence variety, imagery, logical reasoning - but carrying a narrative without losing the reader and sticking to organized arguments is still tough. 

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7 hours ago, Farrar said:

My kid with the language issues is not a kid I'd describe as neuroatypical per se. He's definitely not on the spectrum and definitely doesn't have ADHD. He has some learning disabilities - this is the biggest one. He presents as totally normal in a conversation, in a classroom. You'd never imagine that he is actually struggling to find words. His vocabulary level is very high. He is really smart and insightful. But putting that into words on the spot eludes him and he tends to fake his way through. There's a gap in his processing time. He just takes a bit longer, but then his output speed is pretty normal once he's there. He also has issues with anxiety - which is really his biggest problem.

So just as a total aside for the op, this is how my dd presented at that age. The neuropsych ran word retrieval testing on her which showed very low scores, typical of apraxia (which my ds has) or dyslexia (which my ds also has, lol). And she has the low processing speed. And when writing finally clicked (with metronome work, around 7th), she took off with writing. She has since been told informally by practitioners that she probably should have been diagnosed with SLD Writing. At this point writing is a constant issue in college. When she's tired her language shuts down and she needs to crank out assignments constantly. 

So at the very least, know there are tests for these things. IQ tests crank out processing speed. TNL or dynamic assessment of narrative language because narrative language has known developmental sequences. Word retrieval testing. And so on. 

3 hours ago, Targhee said:

but carrying a narrative without losing the reader and sticking to organized arguments is still tough. 

https://mindwingconcepts.com/pages/methodology  Have you see the developmental charts for narrative language? There's a sequence, and basically the skills build. It might be you could find where they are in the sequence and take a step forward. 

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17 hours ago, Farrar said:

So, narration did not work for either of my kids and they're really different, so I just want to put out there that I think sometimes it's down to language deficits (that's one kid... more on that in a sec) and sometimes it's just not the right fit (that's his twin).

My kid with the language issues is not a kid I'd describe as neuroatypical per se. He's definitely not on the spectrum and definitely doesn't have ADHD. He has some learning disabilities - this is the biggest one. He presents as totally normal in a conversation, in a classroom. You'd never imagine that he is actually struggling to find words. His vocabulary level is very high. He is really smart and insightful. But putting that into words on the spot eludes him and he tends to fake his way through. There's a gap in his processing time. He just takes a bit longer, but then his output speed is pretty normal once he's there. He also has issues with anxiety - which is really his biggest problem. So the interplay there is really tough. It was killer when it came to narration. For him, writing anything was SO much easier than anything oral, first of all. And doing anything that was structured was easier. And I really mean anything. Around age 11, he did Wordsmith Apprentice, which he found really easy and fun. Not too much older than that, we started doing simple outlining and outlining is a tool that works extremely well for him (he hates it... ugh... this is a whole other issue, but it WORKS for his understanding and retention). Also, moving to applied writing and information is much easier for him than the more basic narration and summary. Like, I know that the idea is that you have to write all these summaries before you can write a proper paper and SWB's methods emphasize summary to a massive degree. But ds always struggled with it in its pure form. But a summary for an essay in context of something he's arguing? So much easier for him. You're not far off from that. We really liked Twisting Arms in middle school.

For my kid without any processing issues... he's just a kid in his own head with his own stubborn priorities. Give him a reading about seahorses when he was younger and he'd narrate a summary of ocean tides, something mentioned briefly on page two. Insert eyeroll here. I finally gave him a bunch of standard, public school type summarizing and finding details worksheets and standardized test type books. I think I bought a bunch of them as e-books during Scholastic Dollar Days. Do they still do that? Anyway, explicitly teaching it was really all it took. He could do it after that. However, he also just did much better with structured, but more in depth questions. The outlining is also beneficial to him, though he still has a tendency to sidetrack into his own interests as he reads. So I tend to stick to in depth questions at this point.

Both my kids thrived at that age doing Bravewriter's Partnership Writing, which was super fun and enriching. But is not the same as working on specific skills in an intentional way. It's more working on writing and thinking in a general sense. I think having that sort of approach helped my kids enjoy writing and not find it intimidating, especially for now when their skill set has caught up. Like, they're not winning any essay contests, but both of them can sit down and churn out an essay that's decent without feeling the least daunted right now.

 

This sounds a lot like my ds.  I think a more structured approach and some of these resources you’ve mentioned sound like a good fit for him.  Thanks!

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13 hours ago, Targhee said:

Well, writing is still a hard thing for them.  We used MCT grammar and writing books in 3-7th ish grades.  The writing books gave us the global, big picture ideas about writing.  We did a very few select writing tasks from these.  We did creative writing projects, oral projects, projects that used some writing but also visual elements (eg slide shows or Prezi, posters, acting things out, coloring and writing captions, etc).  We also did copywork, read/listened to great literature, and tried to have conversations about things (all ways of getting ideas INTO their heads so later we could get ideas out).  When it came to needing to organize writing for academic writing we used graphic organizers a lot.  

As far as materials that helped (not perfect, but helped), MCT, W&R, Remedia Press Outlining book, LToW, Wordsmith Apprentice.  What did NOT work were WWE or WWS, IEW, WriteShop, or 6-trait daily.

Haphazard answer to your question, but that reflects well on the way we had to go about writing.  My kids actually have a lot of great writing elements - voice, vocabulary, sentence variety, imagery, logical reasoning - but carrying a narrative without losing the reader and sticking to organized arguments is still tough. 

 

Thank you!  I think I will end up taking a varied approach like this as well.  I’m already throwing together like ten different things to tackle math with him, makes sense to do the same for writing.

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A couple goodies. The reason WWE/SWB doesn't go into this level of detail is because you don't NEED to for most kids. But if you want to know how to break narrative instruction down into pieces, it's already heavily researched. The Gillams who wrote that first article have a curriculum SKILL. That 2nd article is Ukrainetz, another big name. And then the MW/SGM stuff I linked you to has charts showing how to take the narrative elements and convert them over to expository so your instruction is fluid.

https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Narrative-Discourse-Intervention-for-School-Aged-in-Gillam-Gillam/5ba44e852e8f90e1dc20b2872c752f3376afc540  

https://comdde.usu.edu/services/research/schoolage-language/Narrative 3Hr Talk Handout Casper.pdf

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