Sensory story support by Joanna Grace

20th July 2017

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How sensory stories can support engagement and concentration, aid memory and support retelling of simple stories.

When our senses are involved in our learning quite literally more of our brain is utilised, meaning our attention and engagement is likely to be heightened. Having more senses engaged in learning can be good for those children who need an extra boost in order to be able to concentrate on something and is also good for children who have one or more sensory systems not working properly as they have the option of accessing the content through other sensory systems.

In our settings we are often looking to support children in attending to a story, there are a whole host of reasons why joining in with storytelling is good for a child far too many to even attempt to fit into a short blog post.  Sensory stories share a narrative through concise text and rich relevant sensory experiences. My post What is the difference between a story sack and a sensory story explains more.  You are probably used to using the pictures in a story to motivate children’s engagement. In a sensory story you have visual experiences, smells, touches, tastes and sounds and more to encourage children’s attention.

Sensory stories resourced from everyday items can be left out for children to re-explore and re-tell afterwards. A child who struggles with talking in public or whose understanding is ahead of their speaking abilities can answer questions about a sensory story or even re-tell it without having to rely on language. For example in my sensory story Cocoon when asked what the caterpillar turns into a child could reach to share the visual experience that represents the butterfly (you can see a clip of one here) or when asked what their favourite part of the story is they might play the small bird whistle that indicates the bird song, or share the smell of a new day with their peers.

Sensory experiences are memorable, by creating and sharing a story using words and experiences you will support children to engage with and remember a story. The children could even retell the story themselves by sharing the experiences in order, no language necessary!

If you would like to find out more about sensory stories a free basic guide to sharing the stories can be downloaded from http://jo.element42.org/sensory-stories where you can also find the stories old by The Sensory Projects and a variety of free summary leaflets which can be useful if you want to introduce the idea to other people. You may also be interested to read my book Sensory Stories for children and teens which is available on Amazon.

If you would like to attend or book a training day focused on sensory stories and how to get the most out of them for the people you support please visit http://jo.element42.org/training

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