Surviving through story

Posted by Maira Kalpogiannaki on

by Nicola Grove

Three weeks ago I looked at the resources out there for families of kids with special needs and disabilities and thought - these are great… but what I and my family are doing is …telling stories about what is happening in our lives. 

Mine and my neighbour’s despair about our hair…the overload of turnips and carrots in the veg box…. the sadness that I am out of touch with my granddaughter…the joy of finding flour in the supermarket…

I’ve been a speech and language therapist for 40 years, and about half of that time I have been passionate about stories and storytelling with adults and kids - particularly those with severe and profound disabilities. It started when I was working in a day centre and I noticed how often the staff regaled each other with tiny anecdotes about what had happened when they were with their clients. But somehow these stories never got told with the people to whom they belonged… and I was interested in why this was so.  It’s been a 20 year journey which has involved setting up a company of storytellers and then a charity (, conducting research, applying for funding, and learning from the children, adults, families and education staff how to build memories and stories from real life experiences, in an approach called Storysharing®. Storysharing is modelled on the ways in which we tell stories together. It means that rather than putting the emphasis on one narrator who has to get all the events in the right sequence, you simply look for the one thing (or more) that a person can do to authentically join in a story - and your job is to construct the story with them, creating as many opportunities as possible for their contribution. You can see storysharers in action in Three Ways School in Bath  at

We had been musing about moving our training programmes online… and then came Coronavirus. Now I know nothing about websites or facebook, in fact the whole process scares me silly… but Flo Hopwood and Katrina ARab, both experienced Storysharing tutors, were raring to go, and together, working all the hours available, things began to make sense. I had put a call out for creatives to help with the site, and we felt so supported when Bethan emailed me to offer her advice.  We are looking forward to partnering on some new initiatives growing out of this terrible time. To have colleagues at Pictologue with their expertise in play and family work is really encouraging.



Our site, Surviving through Story, provides videos, downloadable scripts, and information about lives in lockdown, based on the actual experiences of families over the last 6 weeks or so.  The stories are flooding in - as more people tell us about the funny, frustrating, sad and happy small events in their lives. I will leave this blog with a quote from a mum who was an early adopter of Storysharing…

“L has really come out of herself actually - I think she is enjoying having us at home with her, and she has started to try new things. The storysharing has been so important with this…because all sorts of funny things are haopening, like going on a cycle ride and getting a puncture.. and she shares these stories everywhere she can, like with her grandparents. She doesn’t respond well to questions, she tends to say yes, to close the conversation down, but having her own story to tell means she can volunteer a piece of information, and then she is in control. So it’s precious…”

Here's one of our sensory stories all about the rainbow, which has become such a symbol of appreciation at this time. You can access it for free by clicking HERE

The rest can be found on the 'Surviving through story' Facebook page by clicking HERE.

Nicola Grove 21st April 2020

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