Understanding the Unwritten Rules – Comic Strip Conversations™

Understanding the Unwritten Rules – Comic Strip Conversations™

What are Comic Strip Conversations™?

Comic Strip Conversations™ were designed by Carol Gray to support young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Learning Difficulties and Social Communication Difficulties to develop greater social understanding.

Comic Strip Conversations™ are simple visual representations of conversations which can show:

  •  What was actually said in the conversation
  •  How people might be feeling
  •  What people’s intentions might be
Comic Strip Conversations Colours

A comic strip conversation uses simple drawings (e.g. stick figures, symbols) to visually represent a conversation between two or more people who may be reporting the past, describing the present or planning for the future.

They also use colours to represent the emotional content of a statement, message or thought.

By presenting the different elements of a conversation visually, it helps to make some of the more abstract aspects of social communication (e.g. recognising others emotions) more ‘concrete and easier to process.

Comic Strip Conversations

When would you use a comic strip conversation™?

A Comic Strip Conversation™ could be used to help a child or young person to:

  • Identify what people say and do as well as emphasising what people may be thinking
  • Work through difficult situations and to identify possible solutions
  • Plan for a situation in the future that may be causing anxiety or concern e.g. moving to a new class, a school test
  • Engage in problem solving/conflict resolution where a social situation has been unsuccessful
  • Help a young person communicate their feelings and perception of a situation
  • Reflect on the situation in a non-threatening manner (“drawing the story” of what happened rather than being asked lots of questions)

How to use comic strip conversations™?

Before you attempt to use Comic Strip Conversations with your child it is important to consider:

  • Can your child read and write?
  • Can your child understand and discriminate between symbols

If your child is unable to do both these things this approach is not suitable.

Before applying this approach to social situations it is important to pre-teach the technique so that your child becomes familiar with the different symbols and colours. Once your child is familiar with the basic symbols and how the comic strip works you can support them in understanding and expressing ideas in a social situation that may be difficult for him/her.

Comic Strip Conversations Symbols Dictionary
Comic Strip Conversations Symbols Dictionary

It is important that the child/ young person takes the lead role during this process with parents, carers or teachers offering support. Parents/ carers should encourage the child/ young person to select the materials that they would like to use (e.g. pencils, notebook) to enhance their involvement and ownership of the process.

  1.  First start with small talk (for example, talking about their hobby) to get him/ her used to drawing whilst talking and to mimic ordinary social interactions.
  2. Following this, the adult/carer/teacher asks a range of questions about the situation or challenging interaction, which the child/ young person answers by speaking and drawing their response:
    • Where are you?
    • Who else is here?
    • What are you doing?
    • What happened?
    • What did others do?
    • What did you say?
    • What did others say?
    • What did you think when you said that?
    • What did others think when you said/did that?
  3. Before finishing a Comic Strip Conversation™, it is important to summarise the event or situation discussed using the drawings as a guide.
  4. Once the event has been summarised solutions to the problem raised during the process can be explored and an ‘action plan’ for similar situations in the future is developed.

For complex situations, or for people who have difficulty sequencing events, comic strip boxes may be used, or drawings can be numbered in the sequence in which they occur.


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