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Finding the sparkle: storytelling in the lives of people with learning disabilities

Nicola Grove (Independent trainer, Openstorytellers, Frome, UK)

Tizard Learning Disability Review

ISSN: 1359-5474

Article publication date: 5 January 2015




The ability to tell a story, whether personal or fictional, is a skill which can enable people to build a sense of identity, friendship, community and self-advocacy. However, narrative is rarely prioritised in services. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


This paper describes two approaches to the development of storytelling for people with learning disabilities used by the charity Openstorytellers. Reflections from interviews are used to illustrate how individuals view their experiences as storytellers, and the benefits that come in the wake of learning to tell and listen to stories.


Storytelling led to an increased sense of purpose, confidence, communication and value. The findings are based on subjective perceptions by the people concerned, and were not obtained through independent research. However, they represent a first step towards evaluating the impact of multidimensional interventions.

Practical implications

Services need to consider how they enable their members to participate actively in the sharing of experience, and imaginative and creative activities. Storytelling, both mythic and personal, can help to develop social relationships and active participation in one's community.


Both of the approaches described here (Learning to Tell; StorysharingTM) are innovative approaches which are new in the field of learning disabilities.



The author gratefully acknowledges the support of funders and partners in the development of storytelling and storysharing projects: the Big Lottery, Somerset Partnership Board, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, the British Institute of Learning Disabilities, Mencap, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Rayne Foundation.


Grove, N. (2015), "Finding the sparkle: storytelling in the lives of people with learning disabilities", Tizard Learning Disability Review, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 29-36.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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