Sensory Stories

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Sensory Stories
Joanna Grace
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
That the author, Joanna Grace is passionate about sensory stories and their life enhancing power comes through loud and clear in her book aimed at those who work with children, young people  and adults who have special educational needs. Subtitled a practical guide, it is exactly that and more.
Beginning with a brief, straightforward explanation of what sensory stories actually are, she goes on to provide a five part book, the contents of which, I suggest, could become the heart of a curriculum for those with a wide range of special needs including individuals with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD), those with SPD (sensory processing disorder) those who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), communication difficulties, memory difficulties and individuals with mental health challenges and the physically challenged.
The first section gives an overview of the two key elements in the enterprise – the importance of sensory stimulation, which is central to cognitive development and the power of narrative and the storytelling space it can create for those who share a story.
The second section gives a straightforward account of how to share a sensory story and embraces practicalities and the importance of being consistent when sharing a particular story.
As well as using sensory stories with individuals, they can also be shared in a group context and the third section centres on using one context rich story with a range of learners with differing abilities. Herein Joanna looks at ways to do this effectively.
Assessment and most importantly, its use to celebrate achievement is the focus of part four –some whys and some how tos, the latter offered as suggestions, starting with questions based on the P(erformance) level descriptors.
The last part of the book presents five sensory stories and associated cross-curricular activities created with the classroom in mind; but they can equally be used at home or in other settings. The range of stories is wide: there is a traditional tale, The Selkie Wife, a cooking story Seasoned with Spice, Two People Made Me a story told in the first person from conception to birth, a science fiction adventure, To the Centre of the Earth! and finally, a wonderful reworking of the Sleeping Beauty tale entitled The Forest of Thorns which has a splendidly realistic ending: ‘He wasn’t sure he could give the sleeping princess happily ever after, but he could start by giving her a rose.’
Of course, the telling of sensory stories is not for the faint hearted; it needs a certain amount of imagination and creativity on the part of the teller; a teller who is, ideally, convinced about the power and centrality of story in human experience. With those elements in place, (if they aren’t already, this book must surely go a long way in fostering their development), and this excellent ‘resource-guide’ to hand, what further is needed? Only the story stimuli of course – the ‘props’ that evoke the essence of the story – but as readers are told, these are not difficult to obtain. Practitioners/carers and parents aware of the particular needs of their group/individuals would be able to choose other stories appropriate to those needs and the sensory stimuli to go with them.
Just do it!

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