Best Practice Award Winners – December 2021

Many congratulations to our latest Best Practice Award winners who share the many benefits of the Story Massage Programme in respectful and meaningful ways in a whole variety of settings. Their work shows the versatility, creativity, and fun of the programme for people of all ages and abilities.


Our Latest Best Practice Award Winners are:

  • Emma Vance, Relax Kids Coach
  • Gill White, Author, Multi-Sensory Storyteller and Parent
  • Helen Mayers, Complementary Therapist and Access to Learning/Behaviour Support Assistant
  • Jane Slider, Foster Carer and Adoptive Parent
  • Leigh Blakeman, Tutor and the Wellbeing Lead
  • Lizzie Badger, Founder of the Pro-Touch Movement and Co-ordinator of National Massage Day
  • Paula Moorhouse, Lecturer in Supported Learning

We have also presented Best Practice awards to five staff members at our latest Centres of Excellence. (You can read more about their amazing work on the blog: Centres of Excellence December 2021).

  • Catherine Halford, EYFS Class Teacher and Wellbeing Specialist at Rutherford School
  • Fatemah Tai, Teaching Assistant at Fairfield School
  • Joanne Vest, Teacher at Evergreen Primary School
  • Kelly Dickinson, Teacher at Evergreen Primary School
  • Rachel Holmes, Assistant Headteacher at Fairfield School


Emma Vance

Emma is a Relax Kids Coach and shares the Story Massage Programme within the ‘Feel’ section of her Relax Kids sessions. Over the past three years, she has worked with over 1000 children in primary schools, community groups, Brownies, Beavers, Cubs and Guides, active school programmes, festivals and even a birthday party. She has also shared massage stories at family and parents’ sessions and teacher awareness sessions.

Emma saw first-hand the positive impact of the Story Massage Programme on concentration and focus levels when children returned to school after lockdown. Indeed, she says many were so engaged they practiced the techniques at home. Emma encourages this by creating materials to send home so families can benefit from positive touch together.

Emma is an active member of the Story Massage Facebook Community for trained practitioners and enjoys using the free resources within her classes. And also loves using it with her own family too.

“I love delivering the Story Massage Programme to the children that I work with. I feel it is so powerful and can have such a calming and relaxing effect even on very anxious children. It is wonderful to see.” Emma Vance, Relax Kids Coach.  


Gill White

Gill is an author, multi-sensory storyteller and parent to a son who is severely disabled. Gill has recorded a version of her book Leo and the Lightning Dragons using Story Massage strokes. She has also created and recorded Story Massage versions of four multi-sensory stories for Fife Libraries using her model Story Sloth (pictured below). Gill aims to make her stories as inclusive as possible and feels adding the massage strokes gives a new dimension for people who don’t understand the meaning of words.

From a parent’s perspective, the Story Massage Programme has given her a new way to connect with her son. And for him, it has opened up a new way of engaging with stories. Gill follows the lead from him, changing the pace, pressure, and tone of voice in line with his responses. She says he is involved in a way he can’t be with words, and it is lovely to experience.

“The Story Massage Programme can be used anywhere, which is particularly helpful when we are out and about, or in hospital. It is a wonderful counterbalance to ‘functional touch’.” Gill White, Author, Multi-sensory Storyteller and Parent.


Helen Mayers

Helen incorporates the benefits of the Story Massage Programme whenever and wherever she can! She uses it within her work as a Complementary Therapist at Becalm Relax, Bridgend, and also as an Access to Learning/Behaviour Support Assistant at Heronbridge Special School in Bridgend.

Within her community work as a complementary therapist, she runs ‘Rainbow Kids’ classes with children of all ages and abilities incorporating massage stories. She also visits playgroups, after-school clubs and schools offering sessions including the Story Massage Programme, yoga, mindfulness, and guided meditations.

Within her work in school, she runs sessions for her class of PMLD students and during PSE time either as peer massage, self-massage or child/staff with stories based on curriculum topics.  She also supports the Wellbeing Officer with massage stories during difficult times such as the sudden and unexpected death of a pupil.

“I ran an Introduction to the Story Massage Programme session to staff, explaining why we use it, and the benefits and effects. This has led to greater understanding and use of the programme.” Helen Mayers, Complementary Therapist.


Jane Slider

Jane is a foster carer to two young men and adoptive mother to a daughter, all of whom have complex and profound learning and physical difficulties. Jane discovered the Story Massage Programme during lockdown when she was looking for new ways to stimulate and meet their needs. It has now become a regular part of their day and has so many benefits that Jane can’t list them all!

Jane was so impressed by her first introduction to the Story Massage Programme with our follow-along videos that she took the online training. She says this gave her a sense of purpose, renewed her enthusiasm, and helped her find a different way to provide positive touch, stimulation, focus on literacy and numeracy that was meaningful for the young people in her care. It provided her with an opportunity to bond and connect in a way that hadn’t been possible before.

“The Story Massage Programme has brought such calm, such strength in connection with my children. It is a real language of love, shared and expressed through the strokes and the stories, rhymes and songs.” Jane Slider, Foster Carer and Adoptive Parent


Leigh Blakeman

Leigh is a tutor and the Wellbeing coordinator at Chadsgrove Educational Trust Specialist College. They deliver Story Massage sessions as part of their weekly curriculum and during lunchtime clubs. Massage stories are chosen in line with curriculum topics and students’ personal Education Health and Care Plan targets. Topics support independence in adulthood, opening up opportunities for communication.

A student with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD), whilst taking part in Story Massage, was so enthused she chose a song and accompanying strokes using eye pointing and a Voice Output Communication Aid. This was part of her work experience working with children’s groups in her local community.
“Students enjoy Story Massage sessions. We incorporate sensory opportunities and interactions, helping to engage students with PMLD, increasing their awareness of the world around them and the people and places within their community.” Leigh Blakeman, Tutor and Wellbeing coordinator. 

Lizzie Badger

Lizzie is founder of the Pro-Touch Movement and Co-ordinator of National Massage Day. Lizzie collaborated with Mary Atkinson (co-founder of the Story Massage Programme) to create massage stories featuring Lizzie Ladybird and focussing on kindness and the power of positive, consensual touch for all. These massage stories were included in the Pro-Touch Ambassador packs and shared within many different settings from nurseries to care homes.

National Massage Day (1st October) provides a focus for positive touch activities and many Story Massage practitioners take part with special events, fund-raising opportunities and assemblies (such as one pictured above with Mandy Gardner at Hippings Methodist Primary School). Lizzie provides support and encouragement and shares regular posts and photos on the Pro-Touch Awareness Facebook page. She also hosted follow-along massage stories to spread awareness of the Story Massage Programme.

“It is wonderful to see how our Lizzie Ladybird massage stories have touched the hearts of so many people of all ages and abilities. This year, we showed people how to do the strokes on hands and as self-massage. Some also used our Pro-Touch Massage Cream. It shows just how versatile the programme is.” Lizzie Badger, Founder of the Pro-Touch Movement and Co-ordinator of National Massage Day.


Paula Moorhouse

Paula is a Lecturer in Supported Learning at Folkestone College working within her team in Explore class. She supports students aged 18-22 years with PMLD as well as those with multi-sensory impairments. Paula works closely with Team Explore and says the many benefits of the Story Massage Programme couldn’t have been achieved without them.

Since introducing the programme, Paula has noticed a real difference to students’ ability to relax and sit calmly. They now recognise the symbol, object, and music of reference for the start of the session and sit on chairs or beanbags with little or no prompting. After gaining consent, they still and quieten as the massage story begins. They also remain for the relaxation music after the session, often up to ten minutes, which has been significant progress.

The relaxation benefits of the programme have had a remarkably positive impact on one student, aged 20, who was not able to sit still and thus found it hard to focus and participate in activities. He is now able to sit at a desk for up to 45 minutes at a time and join his peers for snacks and lunch at the shared table.

“The Story Massage Programme is a great tool for teaching body awareness, particularly for those who have very little movement opportunities from their bodies. We have seen students start to move body parts they have not moved independently before which is just a wonderful event to experience.” Paula Moorhouse, Lecturer in Supported Learning.


 More Feedback from our Best Practice Winners

“At the end of the massage story we turn off all the lighting and relax together with some blankets and soothing music. This has helped with the bonding process between staff and students whilst increasing mutual trust between them.” Paula Moorhouse, Lecturer in Supported Learning.

“I run family workshops and it is wonderful how sharing massage stories can increase bonding and provide quality family time. Families are always pleased to have simple tools that can be used by individuals at times of worry or stress.” Helen Mayers, Access to Learning/Behaviour Support Assistant.

“Asking permission and staying safe is essential for all young adults. We use Story Massage to raise awareness and understanding of consent and positive touch.” Leigh Blakeman, Tutor and Wellbeing Lead 

“The Story Massage Programme has become our favourite go-to activity. It requires nothing more than the two of us together. There are no restrictions and no limits and can bring such comfort and reassurance.” Jane Slider, Foster Carer and Adoptive Parent

“I use The Story Massage Programme as a standalone method of storytelling, and I also incorporate the massage strokes into multi-sensory stories. I use sensory stimuli for sounds and smells, and the massage strokes for movement and touch.” Gill White, Author, Multi-sensory Storyteller and Parent.

“When we first went back to school after lockdown, children were easily distracted and couldn’t sit through the entire session. It was incredible to see how peaceful and relaxed they were by the end of 12 weeks.” Emma Vance, Relax Kids Coach.


Would you like to train in the Story Massage Programme?

Are you inspired by the work of our amazing Best Practice Award Winners? Find out all about the Story Massage Programme online course here: Story Massage Training Online.

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