Quick Guides to Life Story Work
Just get on with it. Don’t be overwhelmed by the thought of starting the
o Some people will be able to compile their own list of potential
o Others will need help or suggestions
o As story unfolds the list is likely to extend
o During each session make sure the list is updated
Inviting people to participate
o Send a letter of invitation in first instance
o Keep the information simple
If person is able to write, the following may be used:
I am writing a life story book. It is a book about my life with
lots of stories and memories from my past and present. I would
like to include some stories from you, of the time we spent
together. Look for any photos you have of us and think of any
memories you would like to share. When we meet up we can discuss
this further. Thank you.
If the person has difficulty writing or communicating:
I am helping Johnny to write a life story book. Because Johnny
can not speak, he will never be able to verbalise his
experiences. A life story book will be a personal record of some
of the experiences Johnny has had which may otherwise go
undocumented. It is a way of keeping his past ‘alive’ when he
moves to a new home, providing continuity of his identity.
As you are close to Johnny, I thought you might like to
contribute to his life story book. Any ‘stories’ or salient
memories of your time together, including some photographs, would
add a lot to his book.
I would like to discuss this further so if you have any questions
do not hesitate to contact me.
[Sign your name and state your association to Johnny. Add
Tips for making contacts
If the person lives at home with family:
Approach the family first
Quick Guides to Life Story Work
Either send a letter detailing the aims of the life story book
or discuss personally using the contents of the letter. The
family can keep this to refer to in their own time.
If there is a third party who knows the family better than
you do, then ask them to make the initial contact.
Respect the wishes of the family, even if they decline to take
part in the process. They may change their mind later.
Be sure the family understands what is being asked of them
in terms of input to the life story book.
If the family is supportive of the project, allow them to take
control as much as possible. This will reinforce the trust
and respect between you. Remember, this may be the first
time they have been given the chance to be the ‘expert’ on
their relative, so be a captive audience!
If the person lives in a residential setting:
Talk to the carers who know the person best. This may be
Draw up a list of suitable contacts between you. This will
- Known family members
- Any friends of the person who can communicate
- Current carers
- Previous carers who were close to the person
Approach each contact, again, being clear of your aims for
compiling the book, and exactly what is being asked of them.
Other sources of information
Post cards – these may be of places the person has visited, or
cards received from family or friends
Certificates – most people are proud of certificates and a life
story book is an appropriate place to present them
Magazine cuttings – these can be of things that the person
values, such as idols or articles of interest
Drawings – it is always nice to include personal work from the
individual. Where a person is unable to write their own book
this is even more important. Drawings can be an expression of
self and add a lot to a life story book
Letters – like post cards, letters are a nice way of keeping the
memories of special relationships alive by including them in
the life story book
Audio and video cassettes