Monday, October 29, 2012

Once upon a time

I love working on narrative and looking at narrative development in children. It's something that I find many speech therapists tend to shy away from, but it is such a valuable tool. I had a lecturer and clinical supervisor who was very passionate about narrative and story grammar markers and all the fun stuff that goes along with it, and I ended up doing my Masters thesis on how 5 year old children tell stories. Here I looked at how children used a wordless picture book (One Frog too Many) to retell a story.
Through my thesis work and my clinical practice I have seen how informative narrative assessment can be, to critically evaluate a child's vocabulary knowledge, ability to relate events that happened and sequence events in logical order, use of appropriate syntax, ability to give clear descriptions, use of connectors, use of inferences and prediction, use of connecting words, referencing using pronouns, auditory memory, and so much more. It is fascinating to see how children of the same age can vary from giving very basic picture descriptions to producing true narratives filled with expanded details and  direct speech.

When I did my thesis I based much of my analysis on a narrative assessment which was a favorite in the University clinic by Black Sheep Press. This assessment called Peter and the Cat Narrative Assessment, is a norm referenced test which, after supported analysis gives an excellent descriptive profile for key language areas in narrative development. It also allows for planning goals for intervention in therapy.  It's a very interesting story, with beautiful illustrations about a boy who tries to rescue a cat from a tree and ends up being stuck in the tree, needing rescue himself. This allows for all the story grammar markers to be used: Setting, initiating event, response, plan, resolution, coda and gives you examples and guidance on how to transcribe and score them appropriately. It also looks at features such as story content and structure, vocabulary, connectors, adverbials, referencing and story register in the analysis. Couldn't get any better right?

Well it has!  I found out a few weeks ago that they made this amazing assessment into an iPad app (*fistpump*) ! It has the same cool features, great graphics and it's a very handy portable assessment tool for therapists. Guess what I downloaded quickly and have been using all week with my little ones! You can choose between male or female narrators with different accents, and it allows you to store each client individually, with their own recorded story and report. It also has password protection to ensure patient confidentiality of files. The pages turn like a real book, and I found the children were more engaged and focused during the assessment for both listening to the narrator and the retell.

Another good thing is that you can choose to exit the program and come back later to transcribe (who has time to transcribe the same time) and complete the analysis. Each page gives you the same descriptive profiles as the hard copy of the assessment and provides guidelines for analysis, then it compiles it all into a report for you to email and print for your records. How neat is that! The price of $49.99 I find is pretty reasonable for an established assessment, especially for the type of analysis it provides.

So if you're looking to venture into the wonderful world of narrative assessment and intervention give it a try!