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Pre-Reflexive Interaction: Joanna and Heath

Joanna Grace is a special educational needs and disabilities consultant specialising in 'Sensory Stories'. (


Sensory Stories are based on sensory integrative theory (A.Ayres) the assertion that motor and cognitive skills can only be fully developed if the brain establishes a route that is continually informed by all senses particularly visual-perceptual and proprioceptive modes. If there is missing input or misrouting, the brain circuitry can become mixed up causing slow gross- and fine-motor maturation and delay cognitive development resulting in general clumsiness to dyslexia and poor math skills.


Sensory stories are specifically designed to assist an individual in managing difficult sensations that are associated with certain activities. The sensory strategies provide a calming sensory input through sound, touch and movement that in repeated sequences and used throughout the difficult activity, can provide calming sensory input and reparation.

Role in Art Practices

The role of stories can simply be understood in abstract in regard the repetition of sequences or bcome more specifically attached to ‘stories’ in a narrative sense. The application of this knowledge to the arts therefore lies not simply in an introduction to this professional practice but rather, in understanding how its methodology; an understanding of the physiological processing of sensory stimuli, can be used in the production of art.

Find below Joanna's 'Parental Conversation' project and the way in which she is drawing upon her experience with Sensory Stories by tapping into this more tactile, kinesthetic exploration.


Heath is now One Month Old

Discovering myself.

The conversation Heath and I will be having will form a part of him discovering where he is in the world. As Heath does not use language yet we will begin our conversations with sensory communication. I will use the art materials to initiate these conversations. I will choose materials that provide him with differing sensory experiences. Once he has been introduced to the materials I will support him in making marks on the page. Our continuing conversation will flow to and fro in short bursts.

My contribution will be distinguishable by the control shown in the movements and will be focused on helping Heath discover his form and shape in the world. Heath's contribution will be the abstract marks he makes as he discovers his own physicality. At times I may make notes on the page, or take photographs of the conversation as it happens, and add these to the page to illuminate our dialogue to others.


The coffee movements were important to us last week, his climbing instinct is still strong and if I lay him down he kicks with great vigour with his heels to get places, it's the only way he can move himself at the moment over any distance.I baby wear during the day, not a particular choice just something that evolved naturally for us. Yesterday I was reflecting on why I like it so much. I realised that my heart now exists outside my body and to have him pressed against my chest is comforting (to us both for now) as it means my heart is nearly back where it was before he was born. Here's hoping olive oil and food colouring will be able to convey that!



Heath is now 8 weeks old

Pre-Reflexive Activity

Joanna Grace writes: This piece of work has particular significance to us, it is dedicated to a friend he should have had. The sketched part is based on the Icelandic sculpture the Sun Voyager, it's pointing towards the future, and flying above is a Loa bird. The Loa bird heralds the coming of spring, or of new dawns, new summers.

New to Heath's understanding of himself this week is his ability to open and close his hands with purpose. He created this piece whilst holding onto his 'Fil' (Icelandic for elephant). He grabbed herbal tea bags, rasberry leaf, ginger, and dandelion. Squeezing them created pools of scented colour on the page, and his sweeping arm movements point towards the Loa in the sky.



Heath is now 11 weeks old

Sensorial Exploration

When Heath was 9 weeks old he moved countries, quite an adventure for a young artist. This caused a small break in his work, but now we have finished unpacking the boxes he's enjoying our conversations once more. Recently he has become interested in taste. Although not old enough to ingest food yet he enjoys exploring the tastes of the food I eat. His art this week - at 11 weeks old - is all about the different tastes of things in the garden, and on my lunch plate. I applied patches of flavour to the paper and he created small blurred patches within their colours using his tongue. He liked blackberry and pickle, more than mango.


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