We are delighted to have Joanna Grace, SEN consultant writing for our blog. Joanna is passionate about the use of sensory stories and has just launched an exciting new project to develop more of these and bring the world of stories alive to children using all the senses. In Joanna’s guest blog below, she tells us more about the role sensory stories can play…
Sensory stories: The importance of sensory stimulation
Joanna Grace – SEN consultant.
We learn everything through our senses. The importance of knowing how to use them and of understanding what they tell us cannot be underestimated. Sensory stories provide a way of using sensory stimulation to support cognitive development and communication. They’re also a lot of fun!
A sensory story is usually quite short (under 10 sentences); it is told in words but also in experiences. We all know the adage that a picture speaks a thousand words, well an experience speaks so many more. Whilst these stories might be text short they are content rich. Children of all ages (including those 40 somethings sat around my dinner table) find them engaging. They can be used to help sustain children’s interest in a story. They also help children remember stories; I have used them in a nursery setting and found the children were able to retell the story very quickly if they used the sensory stimuli to support their memory. This is understandable when we think about how the brain works. When we are learning if we involve our senses more of our brain is involved, this can be as simple as using different colour felt tips when revising, or as elaborate as actually doing a task and getting our hands dirty! With more brain involved, more brain stands a chance of remembering. Some sensory experiences can be particularly powerful: smells can remind us of childhood and sounds can transport us to other places.
Telling a sensory story is easy: you just say the sentence and then share the accompanying stimuli. Doing this is great for building early literacy skills: listening, and turn taking. Our communication is based on turn taking: it’s your turn to speak and my turn to listen, now it’s my turn to speak and your turn to listen. An engaging resource like a sensory story can help children to learn this rhythm. Choosing great stimuli will help hold their attention. I use long sounds like a chime to accentuate this effect even more.
Sensory stories hold particular benefits for children with special needs and disabilities.
Sensory stories were originally developed for use with children with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD). Children with PMLD may need support accessing sensory learning. Where other children may learn from running around the playground listening to the chatter of their peers, touching everything, sniffing the sniffs, seeing the sights, a child with PMLD needs support to access these experiences. Sensory stories can be a really fun way of providing that support.
Children with Autism, ADHD, Tourettes and other related conditions may experience problems processing sensory stimuli. For a child with ADHD their overreaction to stimuli could generate a hyper mood. For a child with Autism an overload of sensory stimuli could lead them to try and block it out, sometimes this can result in outbursts of aggression or self harming. Having the opportunity to experience different sensory stimuli in a safe and fun way can help these children learn to regulate their reactions, which in turn will make the world a nicer place for them to live in.
At StoryPhones we have a unique insight into the importance of sound and hearing. We know how much a child can benefit from listening. Add another four senses to this and the learning that is possible is dazzling. For this reason we have backed the Sensory Story Project, we hope you’ll be able to back it too, and if you do you may find yourself being rewarded with a sensory experience in the post!