Storytelling is a staple of Halloween, whether it be spinning spooky tales in a dark room lit only by a fireplace, or talking about the exciting adventure of past Halloween nights. One thing you might not have considered when practicing these timeless traditions is how it might be aiding in the development of your children.
According to Detroit Free Press, certain storytelling techniques have the potential to double the vocabulary of children on the autism spectrum. One of the techniques mentioned in, “How Skype and storytelling are helping kids with autism“ by Molly Sullivan, utilizes a wordless pictures books. Parents are encouraged to work together with their child to come up with the words to the story themselves. One parent, Kristen Lundstorm, shares with Sullivan how “the first time I would have done most of the talking. The second time he’s talking more, and by the third time he’s telling me the story!” One of the key elements to this process is asking questions that will prompt your children to expand the story, and use new vocabulary words.
In The Autism Parenting Magazine, Professor Susan Taylor talks about the importance of storytelling in helping children with autism improve their listening skills, lengthen their attention span, and increase their creativity. Some of the advice that Professor Taylor gives to parents who are reading to their children, is to make big gestures and get your whole body involved when reading. This both keeps the audience engaged and helps them get to know the characters you are embodying.
According to Professor Taylor, one of the ways that parents can get the most out of their storytelling time, is to give simple instructions before starting. For example, the article mentions that: “Providing autism spectrum disorders children with explicit instructions to pay more attention to facial expressions and tone of voice” has been shown to exercise the “part of the brain’s network for understanding the intentions of others.” When reading to children on the spectrum, repetition of the story is also encouraged. As the child becomes more familiar with the story, they are better able to notice and pick up on facial expressions and body language.
So as Halloween creeps closer and closer, take some time to consider gathering up the young-ones and indulge in some fun storytelling. It could quickly grow into a routine that will be important to both their social development, and your development as parent and child.