How Bag Books help people with learning disabilities

Elephants Trunk

Tom has profound learning disabilities and although he is eight, his brain works like that of a one year old. He can’t speak or walk. Like a one year old in a eight year old’s world, Tom is scared of things around him – unexpected noises, of being left alone, and of touching new things.  He is especially scared of other children. His teacher at his special school heard about Bag Books and ordered him a special multi-sensory story called What Am I?

Like all our multi-sensory stories, this is an unusual book. It tells the story of a young girl on a visit to the zoo. She asks her mum 'what animal am I?' and each page contains something to represent various animals including a rhino, pig, fish and giraffe. One of the animals is an elephant and this page comprises a long piece of grey hose with pink fabric on the end to represent an elephant’s trunk. The storyteller puts their arm in the trunk and uses it as a puppet to interact with the listeners; it also has an elephant noise hidden inside.

Tom’s teacher reads him this story every day, moving his hands over each page. If she does it with him, it isn’t scary. The sounds in her voice tell him if each page is funny, happy or silly. Tom particularly enjoys the elephant page, it makes him giggle. When he giggles, Tom’s teacher repeats this page. Slowly Tom realises that it is his giggle that makes this happen – he is in control.

Tom’s teacher has observed the difference this story is making to him. He has become less scared and far more alert. She has started telling the story to the whole of Tom’s class. This has helped Tom realise that the other children around him aren’t always noisy and scary – sometimes they are quiet and they too also giggle at the elephant’s trunk.

Thanks to his Bag Book, Tom has learnt to enjoy a story, to communicate and learn about friendship. The learning journey has begun and Tom is now enjoying a variety of multi-sensory stories.

An in-depth survey of over 100 Special Needs Teachers found that through using multi-sensory books:

  • 99% had experienced children developing a reaction to stimuli;
  • 98% had experienced children developing their participation in shared activities;
  • 97% had experienced children developing an interest in people, events or objects;
  • 96% had experienced children developing their focus of attention on people, events or objects;
  • 95% had experienced children developing their acceptance and engagement in coactive or shared exploration;
  • 93% had experienced children developing their awareness of activities and experiences; and
  • 92% had experienced children developing their turn-taking.

In addition 86% of the teachers reported that multi-sensory books were used at least weekly including 36% who said daily.