National Storytelling Week: The Wonderful World of Sensory Stories

National Storytelling Week takes place every year and is a celebration of the power of sharing stories. Stories teach us about the world, they allow us to step into someone else’s shoes and feel empathy, they let us escape the every day, and they can help develop essential literacy skills.

Stories are an integral part of our lives. We use storytelling to communicate with others and make sense of the world around us. They can take many forms and can be expressed in ways that allow information to be made accessible to a diverse range of people of different ages and abilities. Individuals with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) are one group of people who can experience the joy of storytelling through sensory stories.

Joanna Grace, founder of The Sensory Story Project, explains that “a sensory story partners concise text with strong sensory stimuli to convey a narrative.” Each section of the story is accompanied by a sensory experience to help bring the story to life. Sensory stories enable an individual to engage in new activities and sensory experiences in a safe environment. With the stories being differentiated to suit their needs, people with PMLD can listen and respond to narratives that are familiar to them and develop communication and anticipation skills.

Sensory stories can be used as tools for creating access to experiences. “Kayaking” is a sensory story developed by Joanna, designed to be experienced at home with the aim to help an individual gain a sense of what it feels like to kayak. The narrative guides the participant through feeling and smelling a neoprene wetsuit, hearing the sound of the waves, and feeling the splash of water on their face. This gives the individual the opportunity to rehearse an experience in advance, enabling them to tune in their sensory systems. Encountering experiences ahead of time can help someone to mentally map out what will happen when they go kayaking, taking some of the anxiety out of it and helping to support their understanding. You can access this amazing free resource here.

Practising a brand new experience whilst in a comfortable environment can allow people to explore things they may find challenging without being afraid, and this may help them to have more confidence when encountering other unexpected experiences.

To find out more about Joanna Grace and sensory stories, visit The Sensory Projects’ website here.

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