guest post

Guest Post: The Story Massage Programme

We’re excited to share with you the Guest Blog Post* by Mary Atkinson and Sandra Hooper: 


Mary Atkinson and Sandra Hooper are co-founders of the Story Massage Programme. Mary is an award-winning therapy tutor, writer and author of four books on massage including Healing Touch for Children. Sandra is an experienced primary school teacher and has worked on national parenting programmes.

What is the Story Massage Programme?

The Story Massage Programme combines the creativity of storytelling with the physical, social and emotional benefits of positive touch. It is based on ten simple massage strokes, each with a name, such as The Circle or The Sprinkle, and an easy-to-recognise symbol. These strokes are chosen to ‘illustrate’ spoken words and bring the storyline to life. Tracing a large circle on the back, for example, can depict sunshine or a face, while a drumming action can represent thunder or excitement. 

The joy of the Story Massage Programme is that it is fun and flexible making it an ideal activity for children with Special Educational Needs. It can be a peer massage activity or shared one-to-one with adults and children. Strokes are given through clothes and no oils are used. Massage can be given to the back, head, legs, arms, hands, feet – wherever is accessible and acceptable. The pressure of touch can also be varied from gentle to firm. You can be seated or lying down – on a chair, sofa, floor, wheelchair, beanbag. 

The Story Massage Programme is enjoyed by families at home, and also in mainstream and special schools. The Programme is supported by resources including a book and DVD – Once Upon a Touch… Story Massage for Children), stickers and training options including an online course.

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What are the benefits for children? 

Emotional regulation – helps with processing difficult emotions so children react to situations in calmer way. They learn to recognise that Story Massage brings a sense of calm and control and ask for a massage when experiencing difficult emotions. Writing their own massage stories can help children to name and express their emotions and understand how these might impact on others.

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Positive relationships – helps with bonding, building trust, and friendships. It offers a safe and supportive space for expressing any worries or concerns. Nurturing touch releases the feel-good hormone, oxytocin, which brings a sense of connection with others. 

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Appropriate behaviour around touch – children ask permission to give a massage and say thank-you afterwards.  It teaches lessons about choice of touch, respecting personal space, listening skills and sensitivity towards others. 

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Preparation for future events or activities – by ‘illustrating’ social stories with Story Massage strokes, children fully engage with the words. Helpful for any change in routine or an event such as going to the dentist or washing hair. As part of a bedtime routine, it can bring relaxation and security at the end of the day. 

Kinaesethic learning – it can be used as curriculum-based activity to develop imagination and creativity, and learn key concepts, words and dates. Writing stories helps develop literacy skills, decision-making and confidence. 

Some feedback about the Story Massage Programme

“After seven years of not being able to get sun cream on my autistic son without a severe meltdown, he’s put it on all by himself. Thank you, Story Massage!”

“Story Massage with my disabled daughter has opened up a whole new world for is. We can now reassure and communicate with Maisy in a positive way, in good times and bad.” 

“We have noticed a real improvement in literacy, vocabulary and expressive language used by the pupils. Story Massage brings words to life, making it a more enriching experience for everyone.” 

More information about resources and training options: or email:

*Please note this blog post is Sponsored. As with any new programmes, especially involving vulnerable children, please ensure you have the correct permissions and training in place. We accept no responsibility. 

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