The Sensory Story Project – Joanna Grace

The Sensory Story Project was the original Sensory Project. My biggest dream was to write five sensory stories. I wanted these stories to be affordable to families, easily resourced with experiences that targeted seven sensory systems and I didn’t want them to be babyish as my readers, or experiencers as I call them, are of all ages. I do not want to patronise anyone. The writing of those stories was made possible by 159 Kickstarter backers.

That first project was like a snowball rolling down here and I am constantly amazed by the speed and changing shape of the current Sensory Projects. In this blog I want to give you the briefest insight into what makes a really awesome sensory story.

Firstly you need concise text. I always advise you start with the text when writing a sensory story because if you start with the resources the story you will come up with is bound to be a bit clunky, and we want to tell great stories. For some story experiences the text is simply the auditory cue that tells them something is about to happen. A brain prepared for experience is more able to process it (have a look at the McGurk effect for a good example of this).For other story experiences the words will be a part of the experience, but even for people supremely able to process language often less is more. Politicians know this when they put out sound bites, we actually ALL process more information when less is said.

Short text does not necessarily mean simple stories, within the Sensory Projects library I have stories that describe the formation of stars in stellar nurseries, examine teenage relationships, deal with challenging topics such as feminism or death, you can say a lot in a short amount of text.

Partnering the concise text you want rich and relevant sensory stimulus. By rich I mean an experience that will appeal strongly to a particular sensory system. I like to target specific senses so that the experiences are accessible to people who may be overloaded by being asked to process multiple types of stimuli at once. Over the course of a story someone should experience stimulation to all their senses, so the stories are both mono sensory in the telling but multi sensory as a whole. And of course relevant means that the stimuli you offer in conjunction with a piece of text is relevant to it. It is all too tempting to crow bar in that recent marvellous Tiger find into a story where it doesn’t belong. Pushing yourself to find the peculiar thing that will match the text ultimately means you end up with a better story.

The Sensory Projects began from my love of sensory stories, I was inspired by all those who created sensory stories before me and I hope I honour the history of sensory story telling by building on the great work already done. If you’re curious to find out more there are a number of free downloads on my website that offer you advice about how to share, create, resource and facilitate sensory stories, and of course there are the stories you can buy. I also had a book published which contains five sensory stories complete with activity suggestions to go with each one as well as more insight into the research that supports sensory story telling.

Go and try it! Have a go. Sensory stories are great fun.

Joanna Grace is a sensory engagement and inclusion specialist, author, trainer and founder of The Sensory Projects.

Joanna will be sharing further ideas for sensory engagement for mental wellbeing at our SEMH Conference at The Wesley, London on 1 December 2017.

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