How storytelling helps young people with brain injuries

The Children’s Trust’s Gemma Costello speaks to The Neuro-Rehab Times about the role of storytelling in helping young people come to terms with brain injuries.

  The feature considers how establishing the story of the individual’s injury helps them both internally and in gaining the support they may need from others around them. An example given is Jimmy Stevens, a boy who was compelled to tell his brain injury story using Lego people. His film was shown at UKABIF’s annual conference and the 11-year-old received an award. The article explains: “Brain injuries can fundamentally alter behaviour, emotional control, cognitive ability and physical limitations. Yet to everyone else, there may be no overtly noticeable changes.”

The role of storytelling

The point that storytelling is central in coming to terms with the changes in young people’s lives is explained by Gemma Costello, lead educational psychologist at The Children’s Trust. She says: “We work within a narrative approach, supporting the young person in developing an understanding of the situation they now find themselves in. “Everybody has these stories about who they are, what they are impacted by within their environment, the relationships they have and what they would like to do in the future. “We build up a picture of how they saw themselves pre-injury, searching through their strengths and skills to develop a solid foundation of them as a person and what their hopes and interests have always been.

Approaches used

Gemma explains some of the approaches used to help young people – such as using photographs or drawing. Once a vivid picture of the child pre-injury is complete the focus moves to the child’s current skills and strengths and the progress being made. The article explores how, by building a positive story, children can move forward in terms of thinking about new activities/hobbies and their return to school. Gemma explains the benefits of putting together a book or presentation that explains the journey the young person has been on. This may be for the individual alone, or for sharing, and helps take things forward. Gemma explains: “It's about ‘this is who I was before my injury, this is what has happened to me and these are the things I may find more challenging, such as problem-solving or regulating my emotions. This is why I might be more impulsive and not think things through in the same way that I did before and these are the things that people can do to help me’.” The article explains that The Children's Trust offers sessions for teachers and pupils to raise awareness about the issues the brain injured individual may be experiencing, and how people can support them. Gemma also discusses the area of social media and safety online in relation to young people. Our summary is just a snapshot so click here to read the whole article.
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