Can a story be told through the senses? Must a story always be words?
Can you think of a story you tell about a situation you experienced where words were not a part of it?
I have one. It is from a time when I was a very tired teacher:
I have an electronic tooth brush that times precisely two minutes when you brush. On days when your limbs are heavy with exhaustion those two minutes seem endless. At this time in my life I was so used to those final two to-do minutes of the day before bed taking so long that I had developed a number of bathroom strategies to while the seconds away. I would read the packets in the bathroom, do an audit of the general cleanliness, try and plan what to wear the next day. Be as patient as I could be.
On this particular day the minutes felt like hours. I patiently read every packet, checked the plughole for hair, gazed out of the window. Waiting for the brushing to stop so that I could go to bed. Moving to the mirror to check my reflection I saw something amazing to me. It felt like being hit by inspiration. A stroke of genius.
Looking in the mirror I realized I was using a manual toothbrush. All I needed to do to go to bed was stop moving my hand!
I could tell this story through sensations, it would start with the slow lumbering sound of me climbing the stairs, and then there would be the smell of mint from the toothpaste, the movement of my limbs and the vibration of the brush head. There might be the bright colours of the shampoo bottles, the breeze through the open window. And there would certainly be the “ding” of the idea illuminating my mind and setting me free to go to bed.
We tend to think of stories as words, but they are not words, they are sequences. When we understand that the essence of a story is a beginning, a middle and an end, we are free to create stories in other mediums, dance, song, music, and indeed sensation.
Sensory stories partner concise text with rich and relevant sensory experiences. Sharing stories through the senses enables people who cannot access language to join in. Sharing sensory experiences through stories can support people who need extra sensory input or who struggle with their sensory processing. Adding sensation to a story makes it more memorable, more parts of the brain are stimulated by the story making the experience more active and immersive.
Sensory stories are a valuable resource for people of all abilities, I even tell them to adults (with disabilities and without). I encourage you to explore them if you have not done so already.
Try Ernest and I and Voyage to Arghans if you want to tell sensory stories to children.
Sensory Products here