Joanna Grace is founder of The Sensory Project and an international SEND consultant. She has over 20 years' experience working with people who have profound disabilities. Joanna is the author of numerous journal and magazine articles relating to sensory engagement and she provides training in sensory engagement techniques across the UK to special schools, adult care settings, speech and language therapy teams, heritage settings, family groups and more.
"Her years of experience combined with intuition and learning have brought Jo, I think, as close as anyone can, to being able to 'get' what the world is like for sensory beings.
The book starts with 'introducing sensory beings'. This is full of theory with explanations pitched at the less scholarly (like me) but without at any point a single note of condescension. There are sublimely mind-opening explanations, such as in chapter 2, taking us through the 'getting wired group'; 'the 'search & discover group'; the 'explore and connect group' through to the 'specialising group'. They really make sense and ring true. And she's managed to slip in a load of real science of how the brain works without frightening me away!
She enables (for me anyway) a new and different kind of respect for sensory beings, through describing their world. Her analogies (learning the properties of metal; learning the useful sounds for a language) helped my understanding - and that's just two from one page! It's not that I didn't have respect for sensory beings, but this book has given me a better lens through which to see them.
Jo brings many insights into the best practice that should be out there - explaining why I am seeing what I'm seeing when I encounter the very best practice. I got a lot from the 'practitioner insight' boxes which are scattered throughout, as well as the many short case studies - some of them so inspiring!
She uses wonderful phrases and descriptions which made me stop and think. 'Parked time' as an example - something that has long bothered me - but now I have the language for it and more ideas of what to do about it.
Along with the glow I felt, reading Jo's book, the satisfaction of learning and understanding more, there's also the feeling of being pulled up sharply sometimes. She doesn't pull her punches when questioning practice. And this is great too. At my school we have 'The WHY imperative', and Jo's book supports this - asking why we are doing what we are doing at every point. Except Jo knows so much more than me about what works and why it does, and there are pearls of (hard-earned) wisdom throughout.
Chapters 3 to 8 on stimuli for the senses are just astonishing - so many things to think about! However, Jo has made this digestible with a very clever and perceptive way of laying out all the ideas. (My feeling is that she has used her knowledge of the brain to work out what's best for her readers!) Her idea works - there is an order - but, and this is close to my heart - it's 'not that you should seek to push people forwards'. It is that 'in locating one experience tht appeals to an individual, you can look nearby in the sequence to find others also likely to appeal'. Typical Jo, common sense but brilliantly well thought-out common sense!
As you'd expect, the chapters on making resources and facilitating time with sensory beings are creative and insightful - and cheap!!
This book is written by someone with an outstanding intuition - but it's more than that, it's intuition with years of research, experience and a highly developed intelligence behind it. It's a thoroughly human book, personal and thoughtful throughout. It's also, without feeling like it is, a scholarly book, based on research. I feel a better practitioner already just for having read it. Congratulations, Jo." - Simon Yates, Leading Special School Practitioner
"It's an inspired book written by someone who really "gets" it and is also able to share it. The respect she has for all humankind is so evident. I particularly loved Jo's use of language and her terminology. As a linguistic being, she has given me the tools to enable me to develop my thoughts and understanding" - Gill Warren, Special School Teacher
"I enjoyed reading 'Sensory-Being for Sensory Beings' so much it was hard to put down! I read with delight that I, who have spent 30 years in a special school, have read something which puts into words all I believe in when it comes to planning and delivering sensory experiences. Words that can be used when justifying what I want to do, words that can be used to explain to why?, how? when others look at you as if you are from a different planet!
It is a book I will definitely recommend to new staff, particularly those that have little or no experience of SEN or in deed PMLD." - Janet O'Sullivan Special School Teacher
"Sensory Being for Sensory Beings outlines one technique amongst many which might help our learners connect with, learn and feel safe within their environments. It shows the importance of sensory stimulation, using and engaging the senses and being respectful and responsive to our learners' independence and time." - Katherine Shearer, the SLD experience
"With clear boundaries and well-placed words of encouragement, this book is as much a soothing massage for the brain (and the senses!) as it is a brilliant handbook for the classroom or home. Every EYFS setting should be using this daily." - EarlyArts