I believe every child deserves a story time. But not all children can read a book or listen to a story. Not all children communicate in the same way. This is where Sensory Stories come in. They are stories translated into the language of the senses.
What does that mean?
It means that the telling of the story is done through stimulating the senses - touch, taste, smell, sight and sounds. There may be a little bit of 'text' a sentence, or even a whole chunk of story, or there may be none at all. It depends on the child.
At the core of Sensory Stories are the needs of the child. Originally designed for children with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD), the needs of Sensory Story audiences can vary hugely. One child may love different smells, another may love massage, whilst a third may hate having their hands touched. This is why I try to make my Sensory Stories as adaptable and flexible as possible, led by the individual personalities of each child, I like to have a few options available when I tell a Sensory Story.
What does a Sensory Story look like?
Sensory Stories are a series of sensory experiences that follow the narrative of a story, which is told at the same time. The sensory experiences are a way to bring the story into the body of the audience member - for example, if your story involves going underwater you may use a blue satin material gently running over the skin, or blow bubbles to show this.
If your story involves going to a beach, you may have some sand (I use Kinetic sand) or have a sponge with an ocean smell on it.
Essentially, a Sensory Story allows the audience member to become immersed in the world of that story through a range of Sensory Experiences.
Who can enjoy a Sensory Story?
I've found Sensory Stories are ideal for young audiences and children with special educational needs as well as children and adults with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD).
Why tell Sensory Stories?
As soon as I started telling Sensory Stories, I realised not only how much I loved telling them but also how powerful they can be. I've had teachers tell me that they've worked with a child for three months and the first time they saw that child smile was when I was telling him a Sensory Story. This is why I tell them.
That and it's great fun.
Vicky McFarland is a storyteller and writer based in Northern Ireland. She tells stories all around the country as well as providing story and creative writing resources. Visit her website www.taletime.co.uk to find out more about Vicky's Sensory Stories.