Positive Touch and the Emotional and Well-Being Curriculum

The Early Focus Project in Dublin has shared the Story Massage Programme as part of the Emotional and Well-Being Curriculum for the past three years. We talk to Melissa Hogan, Project Co-ordinator and Una Curran, mindfulness and well-being coach, about their award-winning work in helping children feel safe, secure, comforted and regarded.


Story Massage and Difficult Emotions

The Early Focus Project is based within a Southside inner city school. The project aims to provide children with a safe place to be listened to and supported as they explore a range of difficult emotions.

Teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNA) are trained in the Story Massage Programme so it can be widely used in the emotional and well-being curriculum. “The combination of positive touch and words helps children to explore and discuss their emotions while forgetting their problems and anxieties for a while,” explain Melissa and Una. “Our well-being lessons are structured around a theme such as angry feelings, gratitude or making mistakes. The massage story is based on the theme of the lesson.” Here is an example.


What are the key benefits of the Story Massage Programme?

Positive and Respectful touch

Nurturing touch raises the levels of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone, making us feel happy, relaxed and connected. Not all children enjoy positive touch for a variety of reasons. Story Massage helps children to experience respectful touch in a safe and supportive environment.

Children are asked if they want a massage story as part of being respectful to each other.  Sometimes children refuse and they know this is okay. They are often more willing to join in because they do have a choice.


Engagement and Focus

Many children, especially those with ADHD and autism, find it hard to sit still and listen in lessons. But they give their full attention when they give and receive a massage story. And there is increased eye contact as they watch for the next stroke. One boy refused to join in most of the activities in the well-being sessions but after a few weeks he began to join in the Story Massage sessions with an SNA or another boy. He gradually started taking part in more activities and now sits calmly for the meditation at the end of the lesson.


Emotional regulation

“Some emotions and feelings can be hard to express in words, but during a Story Massage session, children melt into the chairs and listen to ways they can deal with their feelings” explain Melissa and Una. “We use different books and adapt them using the Story Massage strokes so the children can actually ‘feel’ the words. Some of the children may have been sitting under a table or having a meltdown to prior the lesson. But after hearing a story and then ‘feeling’ the words they become calm and connected within their own body.”


Mental Processing

The Story Massage Programme encourages mental processing of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic information in the brain. Children watch, listen and then copy each massage stroke. It can be used as an assessment tool as it clearly shows when children are struggling with using right and left sides of their brain and body together. As it is such a visual activity our EAL (English as an Additional Language) children can take part and begin to learn the language of the strokes – such as The Circle or The Wave.


Positive Relationships

The shared experience of positive touch through Story Massage helps build trust with adults and develop friendships among peers. One child with ADHD was very argumentative and found it hard to communicate positively. But he has really taken to Story Massage and it has given him a way to calm himself and show ‘kind hands’ to his friends. He now asks his peers if they would like a massage story outside in the yard. Some children have given a massage story to their parents or guardians – and even their dogs!


More about Story Massage

Story Massage combines positive touch with the fun and creativity of storytelling. Ten simple massage strokes form the basis of the Story Massage programme. These strokes have a 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.


Would you like to train in Story Massage?

Are you looking for ideas for your emotional and well-being curriculum? We run a one day accredited training course held around the country for individuals and groups. These days can also be organised as in-house training sessions.  And we also have a new online training option.

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 well-being coaches, therapists, teachers, SEN staff, support staff, Early Years practitioners, those working with people with additional needs, everyone with an interest in sharing positive touch activities with adults or children. All the information is here: Story Massage Training

Story Massage Conference 2019 – Inspiration and Ideas!

Have you trained in the Story Massage Programme – either face-to-face or online? Do join us for our first ever Story Massage Conference to be held in London on Saturday 11th May 2019. There’s an amazing line-up of speakers and workshops with a chance to ask questions to our expert panel. What a brilliant opportunity to meet others, feel inspired and learn new skills.


Continue reading

Story Massage Training Day in Beautiful Exmoor

We are looking forward to a wonderful day sharing the Story Massage Programme in Guiliana Wheater’s magical chalet in Porlock Hill, Somerset on 27th July 2019. This FHT accredited CPD day course is open to everyone interested in sharing positive touch activities with children and adults of all ages and abilities.   Continue reading

Pupils share Story Massage with Dementia Residents

Six pupils from Lochside Primary School in Montrose make weekly visits to a local care home as part of lessons in social skills. The hour long sessions include talking, singing songs, playing games and sharing Story Massage with elderly residents with dementia. And everyone is enjoying the benefits!


Learning Social Skills

The pupils, aged between 6 and 11, take an active role in planning each visit and help with decision-making for the variety of songs, games and massage stories they will share. It is a team effort with the group working closely together and supporting each other. Their nurture practitioner, Pam Davey, who is trained in the Story Massage Programme, encourages them to practice the massage stories on each other so they know the strokes and how to use a gentle pressure for elderly people.

As part of the social skills lessons, Pam helps them to develop an understanding of how dementia affects people and how to choose appropriate songs and activities. They also have a group discussion to prepare them for the sadness of decline in health and death of their elderly friends.


Spending Quality Time with Residents with Dementia

Pam Davey and Diane Inglis, another nurture practitioner at the school, have been taking pupils to visit Dorward House care home in Montrose every Tuesday morning for over a year. Each visit begins with a question prompt to start a discussion. Examples are: “Name 5 things that are red?” or “Name 5 things you have in a kitchen.” This helps the pupils and residents begin talking to each other and further encourages the learning of social skills.

Next they sing a song together. Popular songs include ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ and ‘Mary had a Little Lamb’. Makaton signs are often used to accompany the singing. Then there’s a game of cards, dominoes or a sensory activity such as a playdough challenge. It is an interactive, no-screen, no-tech hour so the pupils are fully present and engaged.


Sharing Respectful Touch

The session ends with a Story Massage session which is always popular as many residents miss the comfort of positive touch, especially from a child. Pupils are taught respect for their elders. They ask permission to give Story Massage and say ‘thank you’ at the end. Traditional songs and poems can be easily adapted for Story Massage so everyone can join in. Pam and Diane have access to a whole variety of scripts from the training day, the Story Massage book and social media updates.

Staff from the care home also enjoy the sessions and comment on the big smiles on the residents’ faces.  They enjoy seeing the residents relax with gentle touch and the fun of sharing a story with massage strokes.  It brings a sense of calm and inter-generational connection for all involved. And the pupils gain self-confidence and self-esteem with positive feedback from the residents.


Building Positive Relationships

Pupils are encouraged to say ‘goodbye’ as they leave. Initially, they were rather shy. But now they make eye contact and many of the pupils choose to give the residents a big hug. This has been a big step for those who were rather fearful of the older generation before sharing activities together. They all enjoy looking back on the session, seeing photos and remembering the special moments during the session.


More about the Story Massage Programme

The Story Massage Programme combines positive, respectful touch with the fun and creativity of storytelling. Ten simple massage strokes form the basis of the Story Massage programme. These strokes have a 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.


Would you like to train in the Story Massage Programme?

Would you like to train to use Story Massage in your work or home? We run a one day accredited training course held around the country for individuals and groups. These days can also be organised as in-house training sessions.  And we also have a popular online training option.

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 Relax Kids coaches, teachers, SEN staff, support staff, therapists, Early Years practitioners, those working with people with additional needs, everyone with an interest in sharing positive touch activities with adults or children. All the information is here: Story Massage Training

Story Massage Training at The Ecology Centre, Fife

We are delighted to be running a Story Massage training day at the beautiful Ecology Centre in Kinghorn, Fife on Monday 20th May or Tuesday 21st May 2019. We are running two days as this course is so popular. This FHT accredited CPD day course is open to everyone interested in sharing positive touch activities with children and adults of all ages and abilities. Do join us to learn an innovative and simple approach to sharing sensory activities.  Continue reading

Tracey Allport – It’s Your Time to Shine!

We’re delighted to be publishing a series of blogs featuring the inspirational people who are giving talks and presentations at our Story Massage Conference in May 2019. Today, we talk to Tracey Allport, an award-winning therapist and well-being practitioner with her own business MOTH Therapies. Tracey will be presenting a workshop on “Enhancing the Benefits for Babies and Toddlers” at the conference. Continue reading

Story Massage for Children with Autism – Ten Key Benefits

We have been so delighted to hear feedback about the many benefits of Story Massage for children with autism. Benefits include relaxation, touch tolerance, emotional regulation, increased concentration, better sleep and social connection. Here is a collection of some of the reported benefits of  Story Massage for children on the autistic spectrum. Continue reading

Hazel Cunningham – It’s Your Time to Shine!

We are running a series of blogs featuring the inspiring people who are giving presentations at our Story Massage Conference in May 2019. Today, we talk to Hazel Cunningham, an independent nurture practitioner with Nurture Connections working on a school campus and within the community in a severely deprived area of Glasgow. Hazel will be co-presenting a workshop on “Writing Massage Stories for Difficult Situations” at the conference. Continue reading

Let’s Get Involved with National Massage Day 2019

Did you get involved with National Massage Day 2018? And are you excited about this year’s event? Or did you promise to be more prepared for 2019? Well, here is advance warning so you have plenty of time to plan! National Massage Day will be held on 1st October 2019 with Pro-Touch Awareness Month running for the whole of October. Continue reading