How can you make a story meaningful for a non-verbal child? Jen Helmbolt, an ASN primary teacher and freelance Regional Makaton tutor at Makaton Marvels explains how she enables communication and engagement through sharing sensory stories on a resonance board.
Story Massage and Sensory Integration
For Jen, every session is different as so much depends on the individual but in this blog she discusses the benefits for Emily, a 9-year-old with very complex disabilities. Emily is completely non-verbal and can be extremely volatile with behaviours including self-harming and harming those around her.
“Emily is a sensory based learner,” explains Jen, “so I use of lot of sensory integration and the Story Massage Programme has become a delightful part of this. Emily really benefits from the positive touch aspect and particularly enjoys firm pressure especially when it all takes place on a resonance board. One of her favourite books is The Very Hungry Caterpillar so I have adapted this as a sensory story with the addition of Makaton.
Story Massage on a Resonance Board
“We sit on the resonance board together so that she can feel the vibration through her whole body. We sit face to face at first. I read the words of the story using Makaton (a language programme that uses a combination of symbols, signs and speech) to give her an understanding of the story. I might also add some of her favourite aromas and sensory props depending on her sensory needs on the day. I have also now combined another element of yoga meditation work to try with her for some rhythm and movement work.
“Emily loves experiencing the story as a massage story and responds to this so positively with real engagement and enjoyment. After sharing the words using Makaton, I come behind her and kneel on the board or sit in a straddle position with Emily between my legs. She has the book on her lap so she can see the pictures. I repeat the story using the Story Massage strokes to illustrate the words through positive touch. I use all ten Story Massage strokes and she always lets me know, through her body language, which ones she is enjoying most. She usually loves The Fan and The Circle especially when I apply these with deep pressure.
Calm, Contented and Engaged
“These sessions usually last around 20 minutes but again, it all depends on how Emily is feeling. The result is a very content and calm child who is grounded and de-stressed. I am so pleased that I took the online Story Massage Programme training. I work with children with severe and complex needs and they really reap the benefits with increased physical and mental well-being. It is a wonderful enabler for connection and relationship bonding and a fantastic skill to have up your sleeve especially for when children hit that emotional crisis point.”
More about the Story Massage Programme
The Story Massage Programme combines the benefits of positive, respectful touch with the creativity and engagement of storytelling. Ten simple massage strokes form the basis of the programme. These strokes have a name, such as The Circle or The Sprinkle, and an easy to recognise symbol. 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 inspired by Jen’s work with sharing sensory stories on a resonance board? Would you like to learn more? Sign up for our Story Massage Online Course and help share the benefits with the children or adults in your care – at home or at work.
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 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 and adults.