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Boy Playing with Blocks

Sensory Storytelling in SEN Settings

Multisensory storytelling is often used in special educational needs settings as a way of providing individuals with profound and multiple learning disabilities, the opportunity to connect with literature, culture, history, and topic and to participate in storytelling.

Storytelling in a SEN setting builds a bond between the storyteller and the story explorer, nurturing well-being and enriching experiences. It builds trust and aids understanding and communication, social emotional development.


The combination of sensory stimuli, rhyme, and the repetitive structure of the stories, forms an excellent base on which to scaffold learning, enabling the individual to work towards learning goals and personal targets that can easily be built into the stories. 


Exposure to stimuli allows the story explorer to engage with new experiences to calm and alert the sensory system, in a safe, therapeutic, and fun environment and to use their senses to understand and make sense of the world around them in a way that is meaningful to the individual.


Sensory stories are an excellent motivating tool for encouraging alternative communication systems. non-verbal, early communication skills, Makaton, BSL, body sign, choose boards, and to facilitate PECS exchanges.  The story props back up the spoken word so can help build the confidence of speakers with speech impediments.


Additional learning is enhanced through the development of turn taking skills, building tolerance, attention skills and sharing. Other learning outcomes are the skills of shared attention, increased engagement, achievement of learning targets, social interaction and helping individuals to overcome any personal barriers through a safe environment.

We use sequences in our daily life from brushing our teeth to making a sandwich or following a recipe. Story sequencing is recognising the order of events with a beginning a middle and an end. Teaching these skills of organising information and ideas develops the students' ability to comprehend a story they have listened to and helps with problem solving skills. It teaches also transition words first, second, last.


Building Comprehension Skills though Sensory Stories

  • At the end of the story, label 3 boxes or trays ‘Beginning’, ‘Middle’ and ‘End’, '1st, ‘2nd, ‘3rd, '1st' 'Next' 'Last' or ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’.

  • This will break the story into more manageable components. You could break this down further by having two labelled boxes, 'Beginning' and 'End'.

  • Can the story explorer identify the prop that represented the first encounter in the story?

  • Can the story explorer pick out the key elements to the story and sort the props into their correct boxes?  

  • Can the story explorer tell or show you what happened at the end of the story?

  • Can the story explorer tell or show you what happened after a specific event (i.e. if presented a prop can they select the prop that followed?)

  • Can the story explorer use gestures or body language to help convey the words? (Provide clues by describing the item they are looking for, or presenting them with the smell or feel of the item) 

  • It is interesting the see the story explorer's interpretation of the story!

  • Some individuals may recall the ending of the story as that is the part they heard most recently, or they may focus on sections they enjoyed the most!   

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