You’ve probably heard of Social StoriesTM, an intervention to teach social skills developed by Carol Gray. Social Stories are effective at teaching kids what to expect during new or unpredictable situations. They also help kids learn what behaviors are acceptable choices in different situations. Sensory Stories are very similar to Social Stories with the focus of what to do in a challenging sensory situation.  Occupational therapists Deborah Marr and Victoria Nackley describe how to use Sensory Stories in their article “Using Social Stories & Sensory Stories in Autism Intervention” (2010) and they describe how to create an individualized Sensory Story in the article “Writing Your Own Sensory Story” (2007). An effective Sensory Story helps children learn how to self-regulate using sensory strategies.

There are many Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) that include challenging sensory components. Many of these ADLs such as bathing, eating, school routines, going to a restaurant, and sleeping are difficult for many kids. There are some pre-made Sensory Stories available from the website http://www.sensorystories.com/. This website requires a subscription fee and the stories can be customized for individuals based on their challenges and sensory strategies that work for them.

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Sensory Stories can also be created with the help of your ICAN occupational therapist (OT)! Since your OT knows your child’s sensory system, they can work with you to develop a Sensory Story, while keeping in mind the sensory strategies that work for your child. They will also use language, images, and self-implemented strategies that are appropriate for your child. Other considerations include how you or other adults in your child’s life can make small changes to the environment to help make sure the strategies are effective. They will also consider what strategies are considered socially appropriate for your child’s age as well as the environment.  Sensory Stories are meant to be read repeatedly to prepare your child for the experience before it occurs. This helps generalize what your child has been working on in OT to carry over to other environments.

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Since Sensory Stories are customizable, they can be presented to your child in a variety of formats that will engage their interest. Your child might help create line drawings for a book. Peer models or siblings might help demonstrate the strategies using short video modeling clips. An e-book with photos can be created for viewing on an iPad, computer, or be printed to take to school.

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If you are concerned about a particular ADL that seems to be impacted by sensory challenges, talk to your OT about creating a Sensory Story!

Posted by: Kavita, Occupational Therapist