Benefits of Story Massage for Children with PMLD

“I am just so glad that I discovered the world of Story Massage,” says Sophie Munnery, whose daughter has Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, “Story Massage can bring so many benefits for children with PMLD and their families. It has opened up a whole new world to us, and to her.” Sophie attended a Story Massage training day and has recently been presented with our Best Practice Award for showing the versatility and fun of Story Massage in her family home. We asked her for some tips and advice to share with others caring for children with PMLD at home or in school.

When and where do you share Story Massage with Maisy?

The most enjoyable part of Story Massage is that it can be done anywhere and at any time. Maisy has Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, severe epilepsy and she is also registered blind and has scoliosis of the spine. It is wonderful to have an activity that she enjoys so much – and can fit in so well with daily life. She loves to have Story Massage at any time of day – from waking in the morning to going to bed at night. There is no set time!

I think it is important to experiment with different positions especially if working with children/adults with PMLD and those who have different sensory issues. Maisy’s preferred position is side- lying. This gives an opportunity to use the massage moves on all part of the body from head to toe. Here is a video of Maisy enjoying Cinderella as a massage story.

What have been the key benefits for Maisy?

There are so many benefits for young people and children with PMLD. For Maisy, it has been especially helpful for:

  • strengthening bonds and connection. Maisy has so many complex issues that we sometimes feel so helpless to support her through the good times and the bad times. Story Massage offers a positive way of explaining actions, thoughts and feelings in a way that I had never even considered doing.
  • helping her to feel calm and relaxed after stressful hospital appointments or physiotherapy.

  • providing a positive feeling of reassurance and comfort when she is feeling distressed or poorly especially after seizures.
  • reducing pain and discomfort. We have noticed a real difference in a few months and it so much nicer to give than yet another medication.
  • enhancing Maisy’s vocal sounds. She is non-verbal but she makes such happy sounds during Story Massage that we know she is enjoying herself!
  • explaining difficult life events such as the tragic loss of my mother. It was heartbreaking not being able to explain where her Granny had gone. She knew her from the sound of her voice and her gentle touch. We have adapted my mother’s poems as massage stories and this is the perfect way to give a bit of her back to Maisy.

Does her sister, Poppy, enjoy Story Massage too?

My youngest daughter, Poppy, also loves Story Massage. She has learnt the strokes from me and from the book/video Once upon a touch…story massage for children. The photo below is taken in Maisy’s sensory room with Poppy reading from the book.

The bond that has always been so special between her and Maisy has become a lot stronger now that she can interact with Story Massage.  They have such fun together. Poppy even uses Story Massage in her own play with her dolls and pets. It is such a magical thing to see when a child finds something that makes their imagination go wild! And we all love it when family and friends join in too, even in the rain – like this photo below.

What are Maisy’s favourite massage stories?

Maisy loves all the stories from the book. And I love to find stories or poems that are relevant to certain activities or situations and adapt them as massage stories. Poppy often gives impromptu Story Massage sessions where she makes up her own stories!

More about Story Massage for children with PMLD

Story Massage combines the benefits of positive, respectful touch with the creativity and engagement of storytelling. Ten simple massage strokes form the basis of the Story Massage programme. These strokes have a child friendly name, such as The Circle or The Sprinkle, and an easy to recognise symbol making it accessible for all. It is a fully inclusive activity, no clothing is removed and no oil is used so it is ideal for young people and children with PMLD in the home or school.

Would you like to train in Story Massage?

Are you inspired by the way that Sophie is using Story Massage in the family home?  Would you like to train to use Story Massage in your work or home? We run one day accredited training courses that is held around the country for individuals and groups. These days can also be organised as in-house training sessions. We teach you how to share the ten Story Massage strokes and work with you to adapt familiar stories and even create some sensory stories of your own. Ideal for parents, teachers, SEN staff, support staff, therapists, Early Years practitioners,  those working with people with additional needs, Baby Massage Instructors, Relax Kids Coaches… everyone with an interest in sharing positive touch activities with children. All the information is here: Story Massage


Sharing Story Massage Overseas

Story Massage is now global… Our Story Massage online course has opened up whole new opportunities for people living abroad to study and learn to use Story Massage.  We also get many requests from overseas for our book. In this blog, we will look at how our UK based Instructors are travelling overseas to share the benefits Story Massage with children, young people and their families in all corners of the world.

After the Tsunami in Japan

Our Story Massage project was launched following the success of a visit by Mary, co-founder, to work with the children who were so traumatised after the 2011 tsunami in Japan.  Sandra and Mary had worked together on the idea of combining story with positive touch and it was the feedback from teachers, parents, social workers and children in Japan that made them determined to share the many benefits with everyone, all over the world. You can find out more about Mary’s visit and how the work is continuing: Story Massage for Japanese Children and The Smiling Flowers Story Massage.

At a School in a Township in South Africa

Sarah Williams, a Story Massage Instructor, was so inspired by the benefits of Story Massage for children in Japan that she decided to include a session into her two week holiday in Cape Town. You can read how she approached The Earthchild Project and her experiences of sharing Story Massage: Story Massage and The Earthchild Project. 

With Vulnerable Families in Mexico

Sandra Fernandez Conde, a Best Practice Winner, is an international baby massage trainer who is on a mission to share the benefits of massage within families especially in Mexico, where she is originally from. “Story Massage is a new concept for parents,” says Sandra, who runs free workshops for vulnerable families, “and they love it!” Sandra has translated Story Massage resources into Spanish and she is happy to share them with anyone who has trained with us.

With Teenagers in Nepal

As Mary discovered in Nepal, Story Massage can be a powerful medium for enabling young people and adults to share and explore their own personal story in a safe environment. Mary worked alongside the Empowering Women of Nepal project to encourage young teenagers to share life experiences, feelings and memories that may otherwise remain unspoken and unresolved. You can read more about the session here: Exploring Life Stories with Story Massage

The reach of positive touch never ceases to amaze me. All it takes are some bold and visionary advocates, in this case from the folks at Story Massage UK working in Nepal. This totally innovative program uses structured touch for interpersonal skills development, confidence building and self-discovery. David Palmer, Founder and Executive Director of TouchPro International

With Children and Teenagers in Vietnam

Sophie McLeish, a Best Practice Winner, has worked with children and teenagers in a foster home in Vietnam. Sophie talks about how she approached the foster home and the challenges of working with non-English speakers of different ages in this blog: Story Massage in Vietnam

At Refugee Camps in Turkey and Dunkirk

Back in 2016, we had a message from Rachel, a British volunteer worker in a refugee camp in Eastern Turkey who was using Story Massage with young, pregnant rape victims in the camp. “For a few hours the girls were smiling and happy,” she says, “they were just young girls … not traumatised, living in tents and petrified of giving birth in such intolerable circumstances. For a few hours, we had fun!” You can read about Rachel’s harrowing but heartwarming experiences here: Nurturing Massage for Young Rape Victims

A year later, Mary spent a week sharing Story Massage with children and families at the Dunkirk Refugee Camp.  She recalls how one volunteer said: “Hearing those little voices sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star as they massaged each others’ backs felt quite magical in such a sad and desperate situation.” Mary has written about the challenges and rewards of working with refugees with poor concentration levels and varying levels of communicating in English: Story Massage in Dunkirk Refugee Camp. And also here: Old MacDonald Had a Farm

With Children from Chernobyl

Here are some simple ideas for running a session for children and families who are new to Story Massage and may not be able to communicate in English: Ideas for a Story Massage session and also: Having Fun with Story Massage. These are based on Mary’s sessions with the children who visit the UK every year from the Chernobyl disaster area with the charity Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline.

Have you Travelled Overseas to Share Story Massage?

We’d love to hear from you. Do contact us to share your experiences.

Emotions at the End of the School Year

The end of the school year can bring mixed emotions for many pupils. These feelings are expressed in a positive and affirming Story Massage written by pupils and staff at The Early Focus Project and St James Primary School, Dublin 8. We hope you find it helpful.  Continue reading

Story Massage Day Course – Bebington, Wirral

We are so delighted to be running our Story Massage training day at Claire House Children’s Hospice in Bebington, Wirral on Wednesday 17th October 2018. The course is open to everyone with an interest in sharing positive touch activities and peer massage with children and adults. For all the dates and venues of our other training days please visit Training Dates and Venues.  Continue reading

Story Massage Best Practice Winners – June 2018

The amazing work of latest Story Massage Best Practice Winners shows the wonderful adaptability of this popular positive touch activity. It can be enjoyed by all ages – from babies to the elderly – and by all abilities. Many congratulations to our fantastic winners who have all worked with such passion and commitment to share the many benefits of Story Massage with others.

Here is a taster of some of the ways that our Best Practice Winners are using Story Massage in the home, school and community.

  • Aly Townley – with foster children, as part of mindfulness lessons in mainstream schools and with her own mother with dementia.

  • Angela Scott – as part of her work setting up Health and Well-Being Hubs across North East Hastings, as a Relax Kids Coach in mainstream schools (including working with children with Additional Support Needs such as ADHD and Autism), and with her own children at home.

  • Caroline Brown – within her work as Complementary Therapy Lead at a children’s hospice and at a school for children with physical, profound or complex learning difficulties and disabilities. Caroline also works with adults with PMLD in a care home.

  • Mandy Worsley –  as part of the Relax Kids Programme in mainstream schools, with groups of teenagers to help with anger issues and as part of weekly adult relaxation classes.

  • Jayne Burke – to bring fun and connection at networking meetings, conferences and team bonding sessions.

  • Sally Hudson –  within her work as a Massage in Schools Instructor in mainstream schools, as a follow-on to baby massage classes, and as a Young Person’s Support Worker for 3-18 year olds who have Additional Support Needs.

  • Simone Jackson – in her work as a massage therapist at a Special School, working with pupils (and staff) as group sessions and on a one-to-one basis.

  • Sophie Munnery – with her daughter, Maisie, who is severely disabled, and with her youngest daughter, Poppy, and members of the family. Sophie also runs Sensory Storytime Session at her local library.

  • Una Curran – within mindfulness and well-being lessons in mainstream schools, with children with autism and their parents in a regular Little Seeds group, and even with her daughter’s Irish dance group to prepare for competitions.

And here are just a few of the comments from our Best Practice Winners:

“I work with groups of teenagers who present as angry and uncooperative at the first session. As soon as we start doing massage to favourite pop songs, they begin to engage. After six weeks, the change can be amazing and they enjoy giving and receiving positive touch.” Mandy Worsley

“Many children find it hard to discuss angry emotions and Story Massage sessions on a theme offer a way of helping them to express their feelings without becoming anxious or hurting someone else.” Una Curran

“Story Massage can offer comfort and relaxation for my foster children. One lad had been through terrible, sustained trauma. I wrote a bedtime massage story with the theme of safety and security and it was beautiful to see how his whole body and mind relaxed during his stay.” Aly Townley

“My Story Massage, Movement and Song classes encourage parents to continue offering nurturing massage when the baby massage classes come to an end. Repetition of songs and stories combined with positive touch encourages anticipation, development of language skills and connection. ” Sally Hudson

“Many of the children at school have challenging and tactile defensive behaviour. Story Massage helps build trust and improves communication.  My advice is to be flexible. Keep it short and sweet. Even a five minute story or song will be beneficial.” Caroline Brown

” Story Massage is a wonderful way of helping to break down barriers at business events, workshops and team bonding days. I write simple massage stories relevant to the event and love hearing the laughter as everyone enjoys the sense of light relief and connection with each other.” Jayne Burke

“I recently worked with a group of year 6 boys who were preparing for SATS and transition to secondary school. At first they were reluctant to try peer massage so I started with self-massage. They were soon writing their own massage stories to share with the others.  The class teacher and SENCO were so impressed with the impact of the sessions that a 6 week block was extended to 5 months!” Angela Scott

“Story Massage with my profoundly disabled daughter has opened up a whole new world for us and her. Being able to find something that gives us the ability to reassure Maisy in such a positive way, in good times and bad, is such a wonderful thing.” Sophie Munnery

“I love the way that Story Massage offers a fun and gentle way of sharing positive touch to children with PMLD. So often touch is purely functional for these children and it is lovely to watch them having fun and really enjoying themselves.” Simone Jackson

Story Massage Training in Birmingham

Discover the powerful combination of storytelling with simple massage techniques on this accredited training in Birmingham on Tuesday 29th January 2019. Open to everyone with an interest in sharing positive touch activities and peer massage with children and adults. For all the dates and venues please visit Story Massage Training Dates and Venues.  Continue reading

Adapting Story Massage for Individual Needs

Story Massage is such a versatile positive touch activity that it can be incorporated into many areas of your life, work or home. And Best Practice Winner, Helen Wyszynski, a reflexologist and trained nursery nurse, is a wonderful advocate for adapting Story Massage to suit the individual needs of her clients and family.

Continue reading

Positive Affirmations for Emotional Well-Being

Positive affirmations combined with Story Massage strokes can have a powerful impact on well-being for both children and adults. Vicky Mulholland, a Speech and Language Therapist, Relax Kids coach and winner of our Best Practice Award, shares her experiences of working with Story Massage in the East End of Glasgow. Continue reading