The benefits of digital storytelling in ASD youth

Nov 3, 2022 | News

Narration is the symbolic presentation of a sequence of events, and storytelling can be defined as a form of narrative. Children usually write their stories using images with a symbolic function; throughout these pictures, they create a sequence with a plot that tells a story (Gershan & Page, 2001). Storytelling may include text as well as other forms of media, such as images, animation, sounds and videos.

Digital storytelling (DS) is an evolution of narratives’ didactic and innovative methodologies. It is based on digital images, videos, text and sounds to form a genre in order to present a story to readers, viewers and listeners via a computer system (Li, 2007).

Considering that young people with ASD have particular communication needs and express themselves differently, Digital storytelling could provide a suitable way of presenting stimuli. In this way, a framework which integrates images and text could form a story that narrates useful information, offering at the same time alternative methods and means of instruction in an inclusive environment.

Digital storytelling also offers several benefits to the educational environment, assisting young individuals with ASD in improving their writing and learning skills, as it increases their comprehension. Moreover, students with ASD who are familiarized with DS seem more engaged, active and creative, discovering different ways to express their thoughts and ideas (Lanthem, 2005). Expressing themselves both verbally and visually in an artistic, productive and inspiring way helps young people on the spectrum to communicate their peculiarities, desires and feelings.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, young people with ASD experienced increased anxiety levels, depressive symptoms, worsening mental well-being, PTSD-type behaviours, and difficulties continuing their typical education. At this point, it is worth mentioning that DS is a valuable tool in face-to-face and distance interaction, especially in coping with social distancing during the global pandemic. As such, autistic students involved in the digital storytelling process reported reduced symptomatology and anxiety as they had the chance to use multimedia software to visualize their thoughts and feelings. Finding an appropriate context to express their discomfort enhanced their self-esteem and promoted their autonomy (Lanthem, 2005).

Collaborative digital storytelling, widely used in distance learning, motivated ASD students and captured their attention. Moreover, it encouraged them to build social interactions and expand their communication and social skills while becoming more integrated members of their digital communities. In this way, this population had the opportunity to explore their identity, identify their particular difficulties and communicate their deeper feelings, setting at the same time their boundaries, which was more difficult in face-to-face interaction.

Implementing the methodology of digital storytelling applied during the pandemic in schools and youth organizations could generalize the benefits for young people with ASD. In that way, DS could help individuals on the spectrum master language skills, develop curiosity and creativity, interact with peer groups more practically, and adjust to their individualized strengths and difficulties.

Communication and sharing concern every individual, regardless of their special characteristics. Only by exploring new methods of communication could equal opportunities be achieved.