Communication and Engagement at St Giles

Communication and engagement, fun and social skills … these are just some of the many benefits of the Story Massage Programme at St Giles School in Surrey. The commitment and passion of trained practitioners at St Giles School has been recognised with the prestigious award of Centre of Excellence.

Positive Relationships and Confidence

St Giles School special school caters for learners with complex physical disabilities, medical needs, speech and language difficulties and a range of associated learning difficulties aged 2 – 16. They also have a Further Education unit for young people with profound and multiple learning difficulties aged 16-19. Four trained staff members create and adapt massage stories to ensure the benefits of the programme are enjoyed by learners in all curriculum pathways – Early Years, Pre-formal, Semi-formal and Formal. Read more about topic-related learning at the school on another blog: Story Massage Programme and the School Curriculum. 

The Story Massage Programme is used in class settings, 1-1 sessions and as part of home schooling, linking in with curriculum topics, plus learners’ individual targets and social needs. Learners following the Semi-formal/Formal curriculum pathways are encouraged to practice sharing massage strokes with a peer or supporting adult as an additional meaningful experience. This has proved very popular with many learners and helped build positive relationships and confidence.

“The feedback from our PMLD learners is amazing, with facial expression, body movement, vocalisation and increasing eye contact. Sharing a massage story helps create a bond between adult and learner encouraging communication skills, developing listening skills and promoting self-awareness.” Lynne Castle, Higher Level Teaching Assistant.

Communication and Engagement

Massage stories are enriched by a wonderful range of sensory props to set the scene and enhance the sensory experience and engagement. Learners are invited to explore different textures, sounds, colours and aromas through carefully chosen and created sensory resources. Examples have included a beach scene, a sea scene, a camping adventure, and even a visit to the rainforest. Rebound therapist, Elaine Burgess, adapts topic-based massage stories and sensory props to share as part of her sessions on the trampoline.

This video shows some of the benefits enjoying by learners at the school.


During the video there are examples of how everyday items can be used as massage ‘tools’ to add variety and create the sensation of the strokes without using hands. You can see how chopsticks are used in a fun and creative way as part of the school’s China topic.

Emotional Regulation

Among the key benefits at the school include creating a calming and relaxing atmosphere for learners who may find it difficult to be and/or become focussed and still. Indeed, some learners are so relaxed they go to sleep in a comfortable and safe environment. Sharing massage stories also plays an important part in emotional regulation at the school and some learners choose this as part of their Zones of Regulation programme.

“It is lovely to see how the experience of the Story Massage Programme allows learners to become relaxed and open to letting trusted people into their personal space. Some of our learners can be very loud but they become quieter and gentler during a Story Massage session. You can sometimes hear their breathing slowing down as they start to settle.”Susy Clarke, Teaching Assistant Level 1.

More Feedback from St Giles School

“One of our wheelchair users really enjoys the massage on her head. Her back is not accessible due to seating. She visibly relaxes, smiles and verbally responds to the strokes. She gets excited in anticipation of a massage story.” Gill Kramer, Teaching Assistant, Level 3. Emotional Literacy Support.

“I shared a massage story on the trampoline with a learner who was born without eyes. He really benefitted from sensory props that he could feel with his hands, face and feet. He became very relaxed and calm and tolerated the different strokes on different body parts. I was careful to make sure he was aware that I was there and what was coming each time. I talked to him and reinforced what was happening next.”Elaine Burgess, Teaching Assistant Level 3/4. Rebound Therapist.

“I wrote a ‘Say No, Stop Bullying’ massage story and shared it at home with my daughter. I noticed that she became much calmer as the story progressed. When it was over, she asked me to repeat it. We talked about the story, and she thinks it will help children understand what bullying is and how it makes people feel.” Susy Clarke, Teaching Assistant Level 1.

Centres of Excellence 2023

You can read more about our other two new Centres of Excellence 2023.

Are you inspired by the benefits of the Story Massage Programme at St Giles School? Find out all about the Story Massage Programme online course here: Story Massage Training Online.