Storying Beyond Social Difficulties with Neuro-Diverse Adolescents: The

Storying Beyond Social Difficulties with Neuro-Diverse Adolescents

The "Imagine, Create, Belong" Social Development Programme, 1st Edition

By Sophie Goldingay, Karen Stagnitti, Belinda Dean, Narelle Robertson, Donna Davidson, Eleanor Francis


150 pages | 4 B/W Illus.

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Traditional approaches to social skill development may often be ineffective for those in most need of them – those who are neuro-diverse (for example, on the Autism Spectrum, with dyspraxia, or with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), those who have experienced trauma, those with an intellectual disability, and those who present with Complex Communication Needs. This may be due to difficulties with language, attention, and memory.

Storying Beyond Social Difficulties with Neuro-Diverse Adolescents is a manual that outlines an eight-session programme, called "Imagine, Create, Belong", that involves a range of activities designed to develop theory of mind, flexible thinking, empathy, and narrative ability. The sessions can be run across 8 or 16 weeks and contain sections suitable for those in mainstream schools, with adaptations to support adolescents with additional needs (including moderate intellectual disability and Complex Communication Needs). The manual does this via a range of age-appropriate play-based activities within a group setting focused on making a movie. It includes non-verbal and verbal approaches to social development and is an implicit approach to social skills.

The programme is suitable for young people aged 11 years to 15 years with social difficulties. It includes content that may suit adolescents from both individualist and collectivist cultures. The manual provides step-by-step guidance for practitioners to run the "Imagine, Create, Belong" social skills programme with participants with a range of intellectual abilities who have been identified by parents, teachers, or other professionals as having social difficulties.


'Imagine, Create, Belong' is an exceptionally innovative 8-session program that fills a gap for neuro-diverse youth aged 11-15 who struggle with responding to and understanding social situations. It is both culturally and developmentally sensitive and identifies the importance of missing links in early foundational play development. A first of its’ kind, the program focusses on neuro-responsive social scaffolding using play-based movie-making activities. Engaging and fun, it is inclusive of neuro-diverse students in both main-stream and special-education settings. 'Imagine, Create, Belong' presents break-through concepts in how to assist youth who struggle with social engagement. This is an essential program for all child and youth therapists!

Lorri Yasenik, PhD, RSW, RPT-S, CPT-S, Co-Director of Rocky Mountain Play Therapy Institute

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables



Chapter 1. Adolescence and Social Interaction

Chapter 2. How to Use this Manual

Chapter 3. Session 1: Setting the Scene

Chapter 4. Session 2 Participants’ Life Story and the Life Story of the Character

Chapter 5. Session 3: Narrative and Identity: How Does Your Character Act and Feel?

Chapter 6. Session 4: Context, Plot Structure, Props and Scenes

Chapter 7. Session 5: Beginning to Identify Problems to Solve in the Story

Chapter 8. Session 6: How Will the Characters Solve the Identified Problems and What Are the Props for The Movie?

Chapter 9. Session 7: Bringing it All Together

Chapter 10. Session 8: The Grand Finale

Chapter 11. Epilogue


About the Authors

Sophie Goldingay is a senior lecturer and Associate Head of School, Teaching and Learning, in the School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia.

Karen Stagnitti is Emeritus Professor in the School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia.

Belinda Dean is a lecturer in Nursing at Deakin University, Geelong, Australia, and holds a Master's degree in Child Play Therapy.

Narelle Robertson is a researcher at the Centre for Project Evaluation at Melbourne University, Australia.

Donna Davidson is an occupational therapist and play therapist.

Eleanor Francis is a speech pathologist who has worked with children and adults in a variety of settings.

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