Storying Beyond Social Difficulties with Neuro-Diverse Adolescents: The ‘Imagine, Create, Belong’ Social Development Program, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Storying Beyond Social Difficulties with Neuro-Diverse Adolescents

The ‘Imagine, Create, Belong’ Social Development Program, 1st Edition

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


112 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 (e.g. on the Autism Spectrum, 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 8 session program, 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 contains sections suitable for those in mainstream schools, with adaptations to support adolescents with additional needs (including moderate intellectual disability and complex communication needs). It 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 program 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 program 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 Editors

Sophie Goldingay (BA, PGDipSocWk, GCHE, PhD) is a senior lecturer and Associate Head of School, Teaching and Learning, in the School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University. Her research interests include developing an evidence base for inclusive programs and teaching approaches in secondary school and university settings, which prepare diverse students for 21st Century work and life contexts.

Karen Stagnitti is Emeritus Professor in the School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia. She has been researching and publishing in the area of play for over 25 years. Each year she is invited nationally and internationally to present her work in play assessment and Learn to Play Therapy

Belinda Dean (BA, MA, RND1) is a lecturer in Nursing at Deakin University and holds a master’s degree in Child Play Therapy. Belinda has 19 years’ experience in Child & Adolescent Health, Mental Health, Community & Family Health. Belinda is a past facilitator of the Imagine, Create, Belong program and author of related published papers.

Narelle Robertson (BA) is a researcher at the Centre for Project Evaluation at Melbourne University. Narelle has over 10 years’ experience in psychology, occupational therapy and public health research. Narelle is a past facilitator of the Imagine, Create, Belong program and author of related publications.

Donna Davidson (BA, MA) is an Occupational Therapist and Play Therapist. Donna has worked with children in a variety of settings, including school and community settings, for over 18 years. Donna completed her thesis on the Parent Learn to Play Therapy program. Donna has a passion for working with children and young people with additional needs.

Eleanor Francis (BA, MA) is a Speech Pathologist who has worked with children and adults in a variety of settings. Eleanor currently works in the area of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), supporting individuals with little or no speech to thrive in social and vocational environments. Eleanor is interested in the strong links between play and language development

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