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Comic strip conversations

What are comic strip conversations?

Comic strip conversations are an approach to support social understanding.

Who are comic strip conversations for?

Comic strip conversations were originally developed to support children with Autism Spectrum Disorder but are also a useful approach for supporting any child who experiences misunderstandings and communication breakdowns, for example, children who have difficulties understanding and using spoken language who will therefore struggle to engage in talk about their behaviour.

Why do we use comic strip conversations?

  • to solve problems or conflicts
  • to help a young person communicate their feelings
  • to explore feelings arising in particular situations
  • to help a young person understand a situation from another person’s perspective
  • to reflect on a situation in a non-threatening way, like without being asked lots of questions
  • to keep the pace of the conversation slow in order to support the young person’s processing
  • to visually support a complex conversation which can be referred back to
  • to work out what went wrong and think about what the young person could do differently next time
  • to give opportunities for the young person to develop strategies to manage their feelings and behaviour

What do I need to create a comic strip conversation?

Widgit symbols of paper, pencil and crayons

Time (how much depends on the child), pencil, colours, paper – use a template if desired.

How do you create a comic strip conversation?

Choose a time when heightened emotions have calmed; making a comic strip conversation when a young person is still in crisis will not be effective. Support the young person to lead on the activity, for example, they could do the drawing or labelling.

Adult or young person draws

Template for comic strip

  • where the young person was at the beginning of the situation
  • who was there
  • what people were doing
  • speech bubbles to record what people said
  • thought bubbles to explore how people may be feeling and what they are thinking

Encourage the young person to apply a colour code to the feelings. This is personal to the young person and could be kept as a key. Colour code the thought and speech bubbles.

Go through the above steps until the key points of the situation are visually recorded in the style of a comic strip or cartoon. The adult or the young person could talk through the situation to ensure they both understand what happened.

Support the young person’s social understanding by talking through parts of the situation that they might have misinterpreted, for example: “Maybe ‘x’ found it frightening not funny when you picked up the chair. So ‘x’ would feel…?”a drawn image of people with their thoughts and feelings put in speech and thought bubbles

Problem solving and planning for next time

Support the young person to identify what they could have done differently and how this would have changed the rest of the situation.

Draw this out below the real situation if possible so that you can make direct comparisons.

Top Tips

Take the opportunity to support the young person to build up a bank of strategies, for example:

“So you felt really angry, what would have helped you to feel ok again?”

If you need to ask questions to prompt the child or young person to use factual, non-judgemental language, such as: “What happened?” or “How were they feeling?” rather than “Why did you do that?”

Colour coding the thought and speech bubbles can identify the emotions or motivation behind a statement, like: “I love your hat.” (This could be genuine or sarcastic.)

widgit symbol cards with suggestions on what to do when you feel cross

Contact us

For more information, please contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service at Flockton House on 0114 226 2333.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: SL46

Resource Type: Article

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