Learning Through Story: Sensory Storytelling with Carrie Hage

Posted on: June 5th, 2017 by SAAAC No Comments

Picture of sensory storytelling instructor looking at her students as sunsets during an a special session held outdoors

For Carrie, the role of the theatre extends beyond the stage. A classically trained actress with years of experience in Toronto’s theatre and film scene, Carrie looked to create a socialimpact with her passion for the arts. The turning point for her came when she decided to do a Masters in Applied Theatre: Drama in Educational, Community, and Social Contexts at Goldsmith’s University in England. “The program addressed the diverse opportunities for theatre practice in different communities,” says Carrie. “We were encouraged to use the arts to facilitate conversations in communities around personal and social change. For me, it became more about the impact of the process rather than the performance or product.”


Photo By: Leyland Cecco

During the program, Carrie joined the Ovalhouse Theatre where she was part of the “We Are London” program that encouraged young Londoners from new communities, especially refugees and asylum seekers, and young Londoners from more established communities to create stories through performance. “It’s really the work, every Saturday morning coming together for three hours, sharing a meal together, learning English and working on their performance, that was what inspired me.”

From there Carrie joined Mencap, a charity that supports people with learning and developmental disabilities. With her first project, Carrie used drama to teach young adults daily living skills and with her second program, Bags of Ability, she was part of the development of a sensory storytelling pilot project which introduced her to a whole new way of engaging and teaching students.

“When I returned to Canada, I wanted to find organizations that did similar work as I was doing in the UK,” says Carrie. Through Mike Lake, a prominent autism advocate and MP, Carrie was able to get in contact with Geetha Moorthy, Executive Director of SAAAC. Geetha and Carrie worked in collaboration and were able to bring the sensory storytelling program to SAAAC with the generous support of Unity for Autism and the Ontario Arts Council.

Sensory Storytelling at SAAAC

Sensory storytelling consists of stories that are told using all the senses as well as words. “In my classes, I don’t use any books to tell stories,” says Carrie. Rather, objects, music, and creative movements become the primary way stories are communicated.

In her early years class (ages 2-8), Carrie creates a very structured environment and activities are geared towards engaging all the senses. “We do a lot of singing and we always open the class with a circle song,” says Carrie. The main activity of the class is story time, which involves oral storytelling and the use of 10 objects. Each child and parent, who are encouraged to participate in class, have the opportunity to engage with the objects and the story is developed through song, movement, and acting.

child using an empty roll of toilet paper to pretend play as teacher happily watches

In her young adults classes (ages 14-18; 19-29), Carrie helps her students develop storytelling and performance skills, by helping them learn how to co-tell stories, and perform their tales for family and friends.

Young adult group playing outside during sensory storytime session

Ultimately, the sensory storytelling program is about making learning fun, interactive, and compelling. Through this dynamic process, sensory storytelling becomes a way to connect children and youth living with autism to the world.

“I feel strongly about learning through enjoyment, learning through laughter, and that is how we make discoveries about ourselves and about others,” says Carrie.

If you are interested in SAAAC’s Sensory Storytelling Program, please contact our office at 416-289-0100

Special Thanks for Our Program Partners

The SAAAC Autism Centre is extremely grateful to our Program Partners: Unity for Autism and Ontario Arts Council. These great organizations believed in our project and provided funding to make it possible.

the logos of our funding partners which include unity for autism and ontario arts council

Unity for Autism is a volunteer based charitable foundation that provides funding support to autism charities and initiatives across Canada, which have profound impact on individuals living with autism and the heroes that support them.

Ontario Arts Council (OAC), for more than 50 years, has played a vital role in promoting and assisting the development of the arts for the enjoyment and benefit of Ontarians.