Practice Guide on the use of storytelling for youth with ASD/ mental health dis-orders

Jun 26, 2023 | News

During the COVID-19 pandemic, young people with ASD experienced increased levels of anxiety, depressive symptoms, deterioration in mental wellbeing, PTSD-like behaviours and difficulties in continuing with their typical education. With the StoryLiving project, we have tried to find answers to these problems and used storytelling as an innovative recovery meth-od to develop and tell stories together with adolescents and young adults with developmental disabilities or with mental health problems about their COVID-19 experiences.
Storytelling can indeed be used as an innovative recovery method as it is a unique form of expression and can promote emotional wellbeing. Verbalising means becoming aware of the situation and seeing it from a different perspective, which makes it possible to also see the positive aspects.
The partner institutions piloted a jointly developed training course on use of storytelling as a method for processing emotions and overcoming fears, trauma and isolation in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The course participants then applied their newly learned knowledge in practice with young people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and mental disorders to help them cope with the pandemic and promote their social inclusion through storytelling.
From the testing phase in Germany, Greece, Italy, Northern Macedonia, and Spain, the main conclusion is that the StoryLiving approach to processing and coping with experiences is very innovative and offers new possibilities for creative work. The professionals and partners in-volved shared the opinion that this form of coping is particularly suitable for some young peo-ple who are reluctant to express themselves verbally. The storytelling method is a good tool to promote the inclusion process of learners with mental health issues.
Based on this experience the course participants provided extensive feedback and recom-mendations to the partners on how to use storytelling with young people (18-25) with autism and other mental disorders, which we have compiled in the StoryLiving Practice Guide.
The Practice Guide complements the StoryLiving training material. It presents how storytelling can be used as a communication and healing tool – both post-pandemic and independent of the pandemic. It also summarises the experiences of the StoryLiving partners in implementing the approach and highlights lessons learned and recommendations based on feedback from all those involved in the implementation phase. The Practice Guide offers specific recom-mendations concerning: training content; accessible language; training provision and educa-tional offer; positive environment and holistic approach; team building; empowerment that can support the educators, trainers, youth and social workers in ensuring interactive, integrated and inclusive learning contents for all young people with mental health issues.
We hope that this Guide will spark the interest of all those working with young people and serve as a source of inspiration for incorporating storytelling into their various face-to-face and online interactions with young people at risk of social exclusion, particularly those with mental health problems, such as young people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).