The Story behind the Story Massage Programme

The Story Massage Programme was launched in 2012 and is now a global success with over 2000 practitioners sharing the benefits with children and adults of all ages and abilities. The book Once upon a touch…Story Massage for Children has sold over 15000 copies worldwide. There are 25 Centres of Excellence including mainstream and special schools (such as Fairfield School, below), charities, hospices, colleges and fostering services.  So, who are the people behind the award-winning programme? And how did it all begin?

Centre of ExcellenceAwards

Mary Atkinson and Sandra Hooper

The story behind the Story Massage Programme started in 2007 when Mary Atkinson (left below), an author and therapist, met Sandra Hooper (right below), a teacher and therapist, on a training course. They soon realised they shared the same passion for creating positive touch activities for children and adults. Over the next few years, they began exploring the creative and therapeutic possibilities of combining massage with story, song and rhyme.

Mary and Sandra, Story Massage Programme

The Japanese Tsunami

Mary was able to put the idea into practice in 2012 whilst volunteering in Japan with a small charity supporting children and adults suffering trauma in the aftermath of the tsunami the year before. She introduced a massage story about the healing power of nature called The Smiling Flowers. The massage story (now translated into many different languages) was created especially for a visit to nurseries and kindergartens in the disaster area. Both children and adults said they felt a sense of peace, comfort and connection that had been lacking since the tsunami. They smiled and laughed, and asked for The Smiling Flowers to be repeated again and again with increasing levels of pleasure, relaxation, engagement and communication.

Mary doing a demo in Japan of Story Massage Programme

Launching the Story Massage Programme

The benefits of sharing The Smiling Flowers massage story were so overwhelmingly positive, that the question became clear for Mary and Sandra. How could massage stories be shared in a way that could be practical and fully inclusive of all ages, abilities and settings? Mary and Sandra consulted with friends, family and colleagues from all backgrounds (some appear in the photo at the very top of this page). And after many lively meetings, they came up with the innovative idea of a structured approach with ten simple strokes, given through clothes. The ten strokes have a name, action, and symbol as visual cue. They are chosen to illustrate the words, rhythm and sensation of the story. The joy of the programme is that within the structure of the ten strokes there is flexibility to bring a story to life in a meaningful way for every individual.

Global Success

From its simple launch back in 2012, Mary and Sandra continue to be inspired by the creativity and commitment of practitioners worldwide who have developed the Story Massage Programme far beyond their hopes and dreams. There is now a bestselling book Once upon a touch …. Story Massage for Children and a very successful online course accessed by a wide range of professionals, parents and carers from all corners of the world. The programme is supported by resources and has an active social media presence (thanks to Chichester Copywriter) and a popular YouTube channel with follow-along videos.

Mary and Sandra welcome collaborations and ideas for taking the programme along new avenues to bring even more benefits to the lives of children and adults. The photo above was taken in Zambia as part of a collaboration with Lorraine Senior, founder of Functional Reflex Therapy.

Click on this link The Smiling Flowers for a copy of the original massage story and follow-along video, plus more information about the benefits of the programme for children in the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami of 2011.

Would you like to train in the Story Massage Programme?

If you would like to share the programme at home or work then you will love our flexible online course. All the information is here: Online Training Course.

You will learn how to share the ten Story Massage strokes, 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.