Apps, Autism & Sensory Stories.

A sensory story is a story brought to life by presenting the narrative using powerful multisensory experiences. In other words, highlighting the visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory, olfactory, vestibular and proprioceptive aspects of the story.  Presented in this manner, a sensory story will have greater meaning to a learner who has a sensory loss or multisensory impairment.  A strong, but simple story narrative reinforces these sensory elements.

Using iPad apps and projection within your sensory story can create another dimension – another reason to interact too strong to refuse, even for pupils described as ‘in their own world’ or ‘difficult to reach.’

A small group of mixed ability learners, are taking a ‘virtual’ rollercoaster ride using the ‘Coaster Physics’ app, a pico projector and a white pop up tent.  The story of taking the rollercoaster ride is the vehicle for introducing, and practising, various mathematical concepts of up/down, fast/slow etc.

One pupil with autism, sits away from the group, using ‘in ear’ headphones to reduce sound ‘clutter’ and shows little engagement with any aspect of his environment.   He finds it difficult to tolerate other people and avoids eye contact.

The group taking the virtual rollercoaster ride are shouting and screaming as they dip and turn, and the initial aim of the session, for the pupil to join the rollercoaster activity, is revised.  His ‘in ear’ headphones reduces the groups’ noise, but the large scale projected image of the rollercoaster remains in his sight.

After several trips around the track, the pupil begins to show a fleeting interest in the visual imagery of the rollercoaster. Maintaining his distance, his gaze is increasingly upon the tent and his level of attention increases.

The group move on to another activity to explore the mathematical concepts experienced on the rollercoaster.  The projected image of the coaster remains on the tent. With a clear space, the boy comes nearer to the tent and the image. The rollercoaster begins with the boy very close to the visual image.

The boy is now very engaged with the rollercoaster experience, secure in the tent environment which is small, and which reduces other visual clutter in the space.  A classroom assistant moves into the tent, sharing the experience of taking the rollercoaster ride with him.  Non-verbal communication strategies reduce the potential bombardment of extra information, which may overload the boy.

For this young boy with autism, who initially could not tolerate a shared activity and was isolated from the group, time and technology proved too engaging for him to ignore.  His initial engagement was through technology, but exploration of the story and experiencing the rollercoaster in isolation eventually lead to a shared activity, and interaction with another individual.  


CSTR Physics App

Design and ride your very own realistic roller coaster, and see how quantities like speed, acceleration, energy and g-force change as you ride along the track.

iOS –

Pico Projector.

A palm sized LED projector, with 80 to 200 lumens depending on the model chosen.  Used to project images/apps/movies into a white tent or onto a white umbrella, to create an individual learning environment.

Richard will be sharing more ideas like this at the BIG AUTISM PLAY DAY 16 MARCH LONDON!