Sensory Stories

Sensory Stories are a fantastic resource when working in Special Needs settings.
Everyone loves a story and I believe that a well resourced, planned and presented one is hard to beat!

While working with a group of students with PMLD (Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties) at Talbot Specialist School in Sheffield 2019 I drew on my early Artist Working in Special Education Training and also my experience of working with the Blind and Visually impaired learners at Bilston Craft Gallery, West Midlands.

In total, I have fourteen years experience of working creatively with adults and young people with a range of Neurodiverse interpretations of the world.

This experience and training has been invaluable because in the class of six (14-year-old) PMLD students at Talbot Specialist School three of them were also completely blind. I have loved presenting Sensory Stories to these students.

A big thanks to TheHandyHedgehog for their fabulous adaptation of Eric Carle’s The Tiny Seed. When we work on this story I use; fans, ice, fake snow, sand, hot water bottles, water poured from a watering can, a feather boa, and aroma therapy oils.

And when I tell PMLD students a sensory version of Raymond Briggs' The Snowman, shredded paper is blown around the classroom to recreate a snowy scene.

Even if students are visually impaired they still respond (usually positively) to the sensation of cool air being blown on their face and also the sounds (thank you YouTube) of a whooshing windy snowstorm.

Different ways of experiencing a bird - including a touch sensitive switch with pre-recorded bird sounds.
Floral aromatherapy oil dropped onto the flower petals ensures that your story even smells good!

For blind and visually impaired students, learning experiences which include exposure to a range of tactile and aural stimuli are essential.

Through my own art practice I already use a huge range of textiles which are of interest both for their tactile qualities and also their visual qualities but more recently, while working with students at Talbot Special School, Seven Hills Special School and NorthRidge Community School I have also souced  Sensory Story props which are of interest because of the sounds that they make.

Successful Sensory Stories have simplified language and focus more on how the story can be experienced through the senses.

However the storyteller / teacher can make use of their voice and add drama, excitement and build anticipation.  

When working with students with PMLD there are other factors to consider too:

·    Do they also have impaired hearing?

·    Is there a danger of causing sensory overload?

·    What are their communication abilities and methods? Eyegaze, Object Transfer, (Picture Exchange Communication System), ACC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication devices)

·    What other special needs do they have?

Tactile bendy snakes for that slithery S story. 
Real twigs for a good crunchy stumble trip sound in
‘The Bear Hunt’