Readers of my previous article may have watched a tiny video clip of my newborn son responding to the rhyme “Incy Wincy Spider”. If you did not see it and would like to, take a peak here now: https://tinyurl.com/yyb4922j - it’s very cute (I am very biased). The video shows, or appears to show him, anticipating his favourite part of the rhyme. As we get to “down comes the rain” his face splits with a smile, the rest of the time he just looks baffled.

At his age it is very clear to see learning happening. When I took that little video clip of him he was just beginning to smile. Smiles were happening at random moments, and were reinforced by the response of the people around him. To him they were just another movement his face made, we saw meaning in them and reacted as if they had meaning, and in doing that, gradually gifted him the meaning that that particular configuration of his muscles has. The repetition and the consistency of our response underpin his understanding and help him develop his communication skills.

My work often focuses on children with profound and multiple learning disabilities who experience life through very complicated brains frequently thwarted by seizure activity. It takes them longer to learn than someone who has the fortune to learn with a typically developing brain. Being responded to and experiencing consistency within that response is essential to their development, without it they do not stand a chance. Likewise having the chance to repeatedly experience the same activity gives them the opportunity to build their understanding of that activity and respond to it.

It stands to reasons that if consistency and repetition remove barriers to learning for children who face a great many barriers, they will also support learning for children facing fewer barriers. You may feel a pressure to constantly be creating new activities but when children are young, there are huge benefits to be reaped from doing the same thing yet again – you just have to survive your boredom as you do it. Imagine you are in a famous band and people only want to hear your greatest hits – choose something great and do it again and again! You won’t get bored if you focus on their reactions rather than your performance, every audience, every show, is different.

We also recommend sensory stories which are wonderful for alerting and orientating the senses to learning. You can find some on www.TheSensoryProjects.co.uk/sensorystories.

This rhyme is particularly good as it contains repetition within it. We often sing this song as my son is waking up, that it runs up his midline, along his arms and down his legs helps him to develop his body awareness. It alerts him to the limbs he has to use.

The older child version of the song develops awareness of the arms, and the hands in particular, which are very useful for exploring with after the song has finished. You could partner it with other activities to help orientate children to an awareness of their whole bodies. Being more aware of where we are can help us to coordinate and use our limbs. I’d love to see what you get up to!

I was inspired to create this activity by the marvellous book “Once Upon a Touch” by Mary Atkinson from Story Massage UK.

About the author:

Joanna Grace is an international Sensory Engagement and Inclusion Specialist, trainer, author, TEDx speaker and founder of The Sensory Projects.

Consistently rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted, Joanna has taught in mainstream and special-school settings, connecting with pupils of all ages and abilities. To inform her work, Joanna draws on her own experience from her private and professional life as well as taking in all the information she can from the research archives. Joanna’s private life includes family members with disabilities and neurodivergent conditions and time spent as a registered foster carer for children with profound disabilities.

Joanna has published four practitioner books: “Multiple Multisensory Rooms: Myth Busting the Magic”“Sensory Stories for Children and Teens”“Sensory-Being for Sensory Beings” and “Sharing Sensory Stories and Conversations with People with Dementia”. and two inclusive sensory story children’s books: “Voyage to Arghan” and “Ernest and I”.

Joanna is a big fan of social media and is always happy to connect with people via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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