Looking in the mirror might seem vain, but if you're really looking at yourself, then it has the power to help you become a better person. Lots of people know the story of my stepdaughter Snow White what they don't know is that I also used that mirror to learn to love myself and you can too, here's how.
1. Really Look
For years I saw something I didn't like looking back at me and turned away, finding someone else to blame. This didn't help neither did it make the thing I didn't want to see go away.
2. Be Honest
Whatever you see in the mirror is what others see, avoiding it or pretending it isn't there doesn't make it go away. You have to be brave and see what you have become - no matter how much this might scare you.
3. Change What You Can
Sometimes when we look at ourselves we see something that is easy to change. We can replace the scowl with a smile, the darkness with light.
4. Accept What You Can't
Other times we are powerless to change things. Trying just makes it worse. Accept that you won't always be the fairest of them all and...
5. Love What You See
Loving yourself is the greatest gift you can give the world. This is how you truly transform from the Evil Queen who hates and blames and behaves badly, into the new you.
No one's perfect (not even my stepdaughter - who is clearly a mug), but we can all aim to be our best selves.
Not-so-Evil-anymore Queen xx
Telling Sensory Stories is a relatively new idea. That's not to say there aren't lots of people doing it, but I have learnt through my mentorship with Replay Theatre and through developing the art myself.
So here I am going to try to break down my process, so that you can have a go yourself.
1. Pick or write a story - I use traditional tales, myths, legends and folktales. You could probably use any story, but try to use stories that have obvious sensory possibilities - ie. Jack and the Beanstalk.
2. Dissolve your story - This is my favourite thing about the process. You basically need to let the story fall apart and think only about the sensory elements. For example in the Queen Bee the brothers walk through a forest, my usual telling of this has very little mention of the forest, but this forest experience becomes my first sensory experience - a green sheet on the floor and beautiful purple petals that fall gently over the audience member, or the audience member feels and throws.
3. Build up about 5-8 sensory experiences - Look at your story and see what sensory experiences might be possible. For example in Jack in the Beanstalk, there's the beanstalk, there's the money bags, the hen, the harp. These all stood out to me as possible sensory experiences.
4. Find different ways to create a sensory experience - Because each audience member has different needs, it is wise to create different experiences for each moment. For example I have the beanstalk but I also have some bean-like wool to run through the hands, I also have a song to sing for climbing up and down. This ensures that your audience member will hopefully get something out of the experience, if one element doesn't work for them, then you have another to try.
5. Rebuild the story around the sensory experiences - Once you're happy with the sensory experiences you've created, then you can rebuild the story. Try not to get too attached to the words, but find fun ways to bridge from one part of the story to the next. Sometimes you may not use words at all, less tends to be more with these audiences. If you can sing, all the better.
6. Try it out - Once you're ready try the story out - whether it be with your own child, your class or in a community setting, the only way you'll know if you've picked the right sensory experiences is by trying them out.
I will admit I have gone into early years settings in the past and completely bombed as a storyteller. Children under a certain age can be ruthless audiences. They don't always want to sit still and listen to a story (some do and that's great). But can you blame the others? There is far too much fun to be had exploring when you're three, who wants to sit and listen to some old lady who loves the sound of her own voice?
However, that is before I started telling Sensory Stories. Although not originally developed for audiences under five, I have discovered they work great with this often hard to engage audience.
It's obvious really, Sensory Stories involve bubbles and ribbon, music and singing and lots of opportunity for interaction. With a little tweaking of the story for younger children, I find Sensory Stories are a wonderfully fun (sometimes chaotic) way of bringing children into the world of stories at a young age.
"Best story time ever," I heard one boy say as he left the tent. Which was certainly an improvement on "Sorry, he just hates sitting still."
Yep, even babies can enjoy a story if it's sensory. They just a love a feather to play with or a bit of material. In a previous blog I talked about how to create sensory stories. But for now, if you have a young child and you tell them stories, you probably already use Sensory Storytelling techniques to bring the story to life; voices, actions, tickling, singing, rhymes that involve touch (Incy Wincy Spider or This Little Piggy) are all sensory techniques.
Liven up any story time with actions, singing, props - think how can I make this more interactive for the children and don't be afraid to stop the story in order to engage them in an activity or action. You're bringing them into the world of the story and the story will still be there to tell once you've had fun pretending to be cats or catching 'fairies' (aka bubbles). Be imaginative and get all young kids loving story time.
Sensory Stories are fast becoming my favourite way to tell stories. They are engaging, fun, interactive and most importantly, put the audience member first.
But who is the audience?
Although I believe everyone can enjoy a sensory story), Sensory Stories have been developed for one very specific audience: children and adults with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (or PMLD for short).
These are people who may have cognitive or intellectual disabilities, physical and sensory disabilities, often severe communication difficulties and complex medical needs.
People with PMLD can be hard to reach and sadly can become isolated, especially when living in residential care homes. Sensory Stories attempt to change this, by providing meaningful sensory experiences in the setting where the audience member is most comfortable - ie. we bring the story to you. Or as Maeve Donnelly of Roddensvale School told me:
"These children cannot experience the world like everyone else, so we bring the world to them."
Sensory Stories bring the world of story to children and adults who cannot pick up a book and go somewhere else.
They're also great in Early Years Settings - which will be the theme for my next blog post.
Pretty much what it says on the tin.
It is a story that you tell through Sensory Experiences for a very specific audience, who are often hard to reach due to additional needs.
Sensory Stories attempt to bring the experience and atmosphere of the world of story to people with profound and multiple learning disabilities on their terms.
Sensory Stories do this by presenting a range of experiences to stimulate the senses and bring the folktale, fairy tale, myth or legend to life for the audience member.
What does this look like?
A Sensory Story may involve music, singing, instruments or other sound effects.
It may use different textures to bring an element alive (for example the leaves from the trees in the woods, or bubbles for underwater).
It may involve strong smells and/ or tastes (like honey for bees, or the smell of the beach).
It may stimulate the visual with bright colours or patterns.
Each story is different and each audience member will have different needs, so one telling of a story is rarely ever the same as the next.
I hope that gives you an idea of what a Sensory Story is, next time in Adventures in Sensory Storytelling I'll be blogging on Who are Sensory Stories for.
For the last year and a half I've been walking a new road: Sensory Storytelling.
It's not a well trodden road and I've made a lot of mistakes (and I'm sure there's more to come) but it is by far the best road I've ever walked down (and I've walked a few).
OK, I'll drop the strained metaphors and try to speak plainly.
Adventures in Sensory Storytelling is a new weekly blog for anyone interested in Sensory Stories. Here I will share my experiences of developing this relatively new way of telling stories. As well as information on the what, how and why of sensory stories, I will share my highlights, mistakes, insights as well as tips and hints if you want to have a go at telling some Sensory Stories yourself (I highly recommend it).
Sensory Stories are a lot of fun, they're a great way to reach a new audience and - for me - they're one of the most rewarding and worthwhile experiences of my life.
So, to kick off, I am going to start by attempting to explain:
What is a Sensory Story?