This blog features nine inspirational Story Massage practitioners who have shown real commitment, creativity and passion in sharing the benefits of the Story Massage Programme with people of all ages and abilities. Here is a brief look at the amazing work that they do to make a real difference to the lives of babies, children and adults.
Yvonne is a Relax Kids Coach (Relax Kids Scarborough) working with children aged 4-10 years in four primary schools delivering in-school sessions and after-school clubs. She also runs sessions for WHISH (Whitby Hidden Impairments Support and Help) charity for children and young people with hidden impairments and their families. Yvonne finds that the Story Massage Programme can really enhance the bond between parent/carer/grandparent and a child/young person with additional needs. And she says that is it extra special when the adult receives a massage too. Sometimes there are three generations involved!
Lisa runs Sensory Massage classes (Baby Massage Chester) as a follow-on from her baby massage classes. She says it is so successful that she now has around 40 babies a week doing Story Massage. Lisa enjoys seeing parents become more confident with their babies through the use of positive touch. One mother came to the class feeling lonely and isolated, and was finding becoming a parent very challenging. Story Massage helped her to bond with her baby and she became comfortable with nurturing and touching her child.
Valerie is class teacher at Darnley Primary and Visual Impairment School in Glasgow. She uses the Story Massage Programme with her own class (Primary 4/5) and has given the children the title of Story Massage Ambassadors as they now demonstrate their skills at assemblies and share Story Massage with the infants. Valerie has created a Story Massage wall in the main hall where she displays a Story Massage of the Month for pupils to try at school and at home. Children write their own stories too – and feel very proud of their literary achievements.
Valerie says the most immediate benefit is the calmer atmosphere in class. There are less incidences of trouble in the playground and transition times between subjects and moving around the school are more relaxed. Although Story Massage hasn’t resolved all the needs of the children in her class, Valerie says it has allowed better communication between peers and between children and staff.
Kathryn is a Well-Being and Trauma Practitioner (Wellbeing South Wales) working in schools and running community classes and 1-1 sessions. She says it is quite magical how the Story Massage Programme can help build trust and connections with carer/parent/sibling allowing children to feel safe and loved. Kathryn allows children to take the lead in her sessions and encourages them to create their own stories using the Story Massage stickers. This proved really beneficial for one young person who was able to express the pain and devastation of bereavement and gently come to a place of acceptance and understanding. Kathryn’s son does all his presentations in school around Story Massage and the children line up for him to do the massage on them!
Kirsty is an Emotional Wellbeing Practitioner and Relax Kids Coach. She includes the Story Massage Programme in all her sessions – with full classes, small groups, 1-1 sessions, parent/child sessions and parent only sessions. Among the benefits she has noticed greater respect for others and increased social skills, empathy and kindness. Kirsty believes the discussion around consent/asking for permission and always saying thank you is a vital part of the process. The Story Massage Programme also helps enhance creativity and imagination with children writing their own massage stories on different themes and reinforcing learning in a fun and alternative way.
Cheryl is an Autism and Well-Being Consultant. She has developed her own wellbeing program (Confident Kids) and uses Story Massage in one of the steps to promote connection to others. She finds that sharing a Story Massage based on a keen interest can help children to make new friends. The simple exchange of asking permission can open up a new level of friendly eye contact and smiles. It has enabled her to engage children, even those that were initially reluctant, in group conversations. In her 1-1 sessions, Cheryl has used Story Massage as a gentle way of getting children to recognise and talk about their difficult emotions.
Katie is a Certified IAIM Infant Massage Instructor and runs her own business Blissful Bebe Massage which has been enhanced by the introduction of the Story Massage Programme. She includes Story Massage in five-week Baby Massage Course and has designed her own Baby Story Massage and Toddler Story Massage as follow-on courses. Following requests from parents, she also runs a Sibling Story Massage Workshop for toddlers and pre-schoolers and their new baby siblings. Parents report back that bedtime massage stories have really helped with relaxation and easier bedtime routines for all ages. Katie says that families love the positive touch, bonding time and the closeness that it brings.
Claire is Sensory Champion for Sensory Pathway at Saxon Hill Academy, Lichfield. She uses the Story Massage Programme regularly within her complex needs sensory class for 14 -19-year-old learners. The enjoyment and benefits are so apparent that she organised a whole school assembly for pupils from 2-19 years to experience Story Massage. This led to parents wanting to know more so they could use it at home. Claire has also found sharing massage stories is a wonderful way of calming Brownies on a pack holiday!
Ann de Young
Ann is a Relax Kids Coach (Relax Kids Maidstone&Malling) and uses the Story Massage Programme within the Relax Kids ‘Feel’ element of the 7 steps to relaxation. She delivers weekly sessions across five primary schools per term and runs a community based after school club. She also works closely with her local Virtual Schools group supporting children in care and their foster parents via workshops in the holidays. Ann says it is now part of every session as it so versatile and inclusive. The children protest if it is not included! Ann finds it particularly rewarding to see adults relaxing and laughing in the sessions and she often uses this time to reflect on the need for self-care.
Feedback from our Practitioners
“The Story Massage Programme brings a new enjoyment for stories and rhymes. It has given the most complex needs pupils the opportunity to take part in stories and rhymes. I have built up a file with massage stories related to the themes and topics that we are working on at the moment.” Claire Starling
“Adults enjoy the Story Massage Programme as much as the children in our family sessions. Sometimes there is a lot of reluctance as they step out of their comfort zone, but they visibly relax by the second stroke. One foster carer told me she seldom relaxed and she could feel the stress and tension easing away during the session, and it was a great feeling.” Ann de Young
“I love hearing feedback about the fun and creativity of the Story Massage Programme in the family home. One child gave her Granny a massage to calm her down because she was getting annoyed when she was on the phone to the doctor. Another family who have English as a second language have used massage stories to help their Mum learn and practice English.” Kirsty Forsyth
“My advice is to relax and enjoy the Story Massage Programme. If you are enjoying it then so will the babies and their parents. Story Massage is fun – so make your sessions fun whilst not forgetting to communicate the importance of positive touch and feelings. And look after the parents. A drink and a biscuit at the end of class is always appreciated and gives the chance for them to create develop support networks and friendships that are so important for a new parent.” Lisa Childs
“During Story Massage sessions, the children are very relaxed. You can see on their faces the impact that positive touch has on them. Everyone is encouraged to join in, but they always ask permission first. If they are not comfortable with peer massage, then they do self-massage. Most children are now confident to tell each other if the touch they receive is too light or hard and tell us their favourite strokes.” Yvonne Bradley
“Many children are nervous of sudden touch. Being able to predict the movements and put them in the context of a story can help ease concerns around touch. The massage story can be on display, so everyone knows what is coming. No surprises mean there are less anxieties and better connections to others.” Cheryl Kennedy
“My advice is to be flexible. Quite often we can be waiting to go to lunch or to the hall for PE and I’ll make up a massage story on the spot about what we are going to do. This can often be very settling before an activity and only takes a few minutes. Longer sessions are planned but the more spontaneous ones are often the best.” Valerie Colrain
“The Story Massage Programme can be so easily adapted for all ages. Babies love the singing, rhyming and one-to-one interaction with their parents. Toddlers enjoy the interactive nature of the Story Massage Programme and the sensory experience of props during the sessions. Pre-schoolers and school age children like sharing tunes and stories they know – and there is always great enjoyment when they write their own massage stories.” Katie Smith
“The Story Massage Programme can break through loneliness, pain, low self-esteem, confusion and uncertainty. It is uplifting and empowering and leaves both giver and receiver feeling amazing. I always get great feedback from children and parents and carers.” Kathryn Donovan
Would you like to train in the Story Massage Programme?
Are you inspired by the work of our amazing Story Massage practitioners ? Why not set yourself a goal to train in the Story Massage Programme? (Thank you to Kirsty Forsyth for this photo from one of her Story Massage sessions!) Find out all about our online course here: Story Massage Online Training.