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Tracking Narrative
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Tracking Narrative
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Children and Grief - handout
When Kids Won't Listen
Make It Happen
Scaffolding for Success

Example of running narrative for children with verbal delays


Sandy Kleven, LCSW


This is an example of a running narrative or "tracking narrative" for use with children who lag in speech and who seem developmentally behind in other ways. 


The idea is to talk about what they are doing, repeating phrases constantly, sometimes saying the same thing in slightly different words, using a large dose of praise but also putting words to the child’s non-verbal gestures. 


The teacher should be at the table or on the floor right next to the child.  The commentary should be about what is happening now.  The child should not be asked questions, except rhetorical ones, if it is known that he doesn’t answer questions.  An example of rhetorical is “Will the piece fit in the puzzle?  Let’s watch.  Yes, it does fit.  Good job!”    


This approach helps in these ways:

1)      The teacher engages the child “where he’s at.”  Sometimes non-verbal/low-verbal children are left alone in the classroom allowed to do their own thing because they are quiet.  In some cases, they don’t attract a lot of attention.  This exchange brings the teacher close to the child, in a rich exchange.  

2)      It gives vocabulary which may help with speech but over time it also sets up a common vocabulary for the child and teacher.  Soon, he knows what she calls the round blue thing – a ball – and this applies to more complicated concepts,too, such as “Done now,” and “Look, it fell down again.” 

3)      If anxiety is a contributing element, and if the child does not have an autistic child’s aversion to close contact, it will sooth the child and help them feel safe in the school environment. They will make overtures toward the larger classroom sooner.


This example is given to show the fairly broad extent of what can be covered in a narrative like this.  Teachers run the risk of falling into the habit of teaching and asking questions which may be hard for a child like this to tolerate.  Questions asked with the expectation of a response tend to increase the child’s withdrawal. When using a tracking narrative, a teacher can easily fall into “teaching” such as identifying colors, shapes, objects, pictures, because this is customarily what a teacher would do.  The tracking narrative is a little different and this example shows all of the other areas open to the commentary. The commentary should mostly focus on naming or describing what the child is doing.   


Example (made up name will be Tobey):   I see Tobey playing with blocks.  Look, Tobey is piling them up.  You made a big pile…Tobey, one, two, three.  Oh, no, they all fell down.  Okay… now you are starting over.  First a blue, then another blue.  Two blue blocks.  Now, a red block.  One, two, three, it is getting big again.  One more block goes on the tower.  It is big.  Will it fall down?  It looks like a strong tower.  Down it goes again.   Tobey is done playing with the blocks.  Good-bye blocks.  See you later.  Now, Tobey has a puzzle.  There is a picture. It looks like a horse.  I think it is a picture of a horse.  Tobey took out all the pieces.  I wonder if they will fit.  (Tobey pushes teacher’s hand away) Tobey does not want help.  Tobey has a big piece.  I wonder if it will fit in the puzzle.  Look! Tobey put the piece in.  Good job.  What comes next?  I wonder.  Oh, look you have another puzzle piece.  Where does it go?  [It is also possible to “plant seeds” about the next activity].  Pretty soon, everybody is going to have some lunch.  We will all eat something good.  Look, Jesse is making some lunch.  I am so hungry.  I like to eat sandwiches.  It is almost time to eat lunch.  It’s clean up time.  I will help you put away the blocks and the puzzle.  That’s right.  Thank you for helping me.  You are so nice.  I am glad you are at school.  You are learning every day.  Good job, cleaning up.  Let’s see what Jesse made for lunch.”     


Additional praise can be slipped in such as “You are coming to school now.  You are such a big boy.  I like seeing you every day.  You are learning new things at school.”


If the child pushes away the teacher’s hand when she tries to touch his toys, she should acknowledge that he wants to “do it all by himself” but every five minutes or so, she should do it again because the physical connection initiated by the child – even though it’s rejecting, is still a strong connection and it’s worth repeating intermittently – but not to the point of annoying the child.  .   



One other issue involved with a special needs child relates to modification of the rules.  We can imagine, above, that when Tobey left the blocks and got a puzzle, he should have put the blocks away.  If a teacher used this particular moment to insist that the child put away the last toy before getting the next, the forward momentum with the child could be lost.  The instructor might be able to accommodate the rule by saying, “I am putting the blocks away.” Even this might trigger the child, causing any ground that was gained to be lost.  When the very important objective is to engage and draw out a new child who does not speak, does not know the rules, who may not be ready to understand the concept of rules, some latitude should be given. 



Holding Our Own 
Sandra L Kleven, LCSW
3978 Defiance Street
Anchorage, Alaska 99504
907 332 6735
907 764 - 1945