Bag Books

Bag Books is a UK registered charity which publishes multi-sensory books to support people with severe or profound and multiple learning disabilities. They are aimed to be enjoyed by people who do not benefit from ‘mainstream’ books by providing stories which are interactive and sensory based rather than relying on words and pictures. They can be enjoyed without being fully understood as they are told using objects, voices, emotions and actions. All of the stories consist of just a few lines, with every line being accompanied by a sensory element, such as something to touch, a sound, a smell, or a physical interaction with the storyteller.

Bag Books use a variety of inexpensive everyday objects and can develop and encourage reactions to stimuli; develop participation in shared activities; develop an interest in people, events or objects; develop focus of attention on people, events or objects; develop acceptance and engagement in co active or shared exploration; develop awareness of activities and experiences; and develop turn-taking skills.

Bag Books have created DIY at home books which can be accessed free of charge and simply require the storyteller to gather the items themselves. The objects are things that you will probably already have or which can be easily and cheaply obtained. Each storyboard also mentions alternatives that could be used for certain elements. The stories are designed to be used at home by a parent/carer in a one-to-one setting and can be found either via the website or using the links below. Each storyboard also contains a link to a film where you can watch an example of the story being told.

Bag Books is a resource which we frequently use in school so will be familiar to your child. The objects needed for the stories are mainly freely accessible everyday items from home however if you are unable to source some of them then please get in touch and we will do our best to get them for you.

If you would like more information then have a look on the website

Bag Books – A Sad Day 2021

Bag Books – A Snowy Day 2021

Bag Books – Don’t Say Egg 2021

Bag Books – Laila in Lockdown 2021

Bag Books – Moving Day 2021

Bag Books – Party in the Sky 2021

Bag Books – The Alien Planet 2021

Bag Books – The Secret Ingredient 2021

Bag Books – Three Little Pigs 2021



Sensory Exploration – Taste

Hi Everyone,

Following  last week’s blog about smell it seems logical to move onto taste as the two sensory systems are so intertwined.  As we all know it can be hard to taste if we have a reduced sense of smell, for example if we hold our nose or have a cold it is difficult or impossible to taste properly. Our mouths have lots of sensory receptors, both tactile and taste, and as result are an excellent ‘tool’ for exploring and learning about the world around us.  By putting an object in our mouth we receive information about smell, taste, texture and temperature.  This also means for children with hypersensitivity in certain sensory systems daily tasks such as eating and brushing teeth can be very challenging:

On our tongue we have different taste bud receptors for sour, sweet, salty, umami (meaty) and bitter. The tactile receptors on our tongue gives us information about the texture (crunchy, dry, smooth, wet) and temperature of food.

I have included a link to a brilliant clip about taste and smell, which explains why children are more sensitive to strong taste than adults.

Some children may have strict ‘rules’ around what they eat, or a very short list of food they enjoy.   Other children might seek out non food substances to eat such as sand and dirt. This may be because they are seeking strong tastes (hyposensitive to taste) or even because they are trying to stimulate their tactile receptors in the mouth (hyposensitive to touch).  *[Pica is an appetite for non food items ]

Food and eating can be a very emotive and stressful subject for parents and families.

A fun way to explore your child’s reaction to different tastes and textures is sensory food sessions.  At school these are sessions where we can gather information about preference of taste and texture, hypo and hypersensitivity to temperature, taste and texture and this information can help us to encourage sensory exploration of different foods and ingredients.  At Hillside we explore food during weekly cookery sessions, when pupils are encouraged to investigate ingredients using their senses. Staff use their observations and consult with parents and our wonderful school cooks, and where appropriate Speech and Language Therapists and Occupational Therapists to build individual eating and drinking profile for our pupils.  With the information we have gathered we can begin to build some sessions to incorporate sensory preferences and begin to try to increase the range of foods the young person will accept.

At Hillside we encourage the pupils to use their senses to explore food, I have attached some visuals if you would like to try using them as a prompt at home.

look smell touch taste

Below I have included a selection of different sensory food activities you could enjoy with your child at home.  If you would like any of these in printed form please contact the school or email me directly at  Alternatively if you would like visuals to support sensory food exploration tailored to the specific preferences of your child contact me and when can create something around your child’s needs.

Edible Chocolate Slime Recipe

sensory food sessions

  • Pica is an appetite for non food items which may in part be caused by seeking the feeling of eating certain non-food items, but there can be other developmental or nutritional reasons behind Pica.  I have included a link to a website that explains Pica in more detail for your information:






Tacpac is a sensory communication resource using touch and music. Tacpac helps people with sensory impairment, developmental delay, complex learning difficulties, tactile defensiveness, and limited or pre verbal levels of communication.

Tacpac was created to help develop communication skills with children who have profound and multiple learning difficulties and aims to heighten levels of awareness and arousal and also promote responses to various stimuli.

Tacpac is an integrated experience which uses music and textured objects to match the different patterns of the music and is based on the idea of tactile play. It combines touch, sound, pattern and relationship as a fluid process between partners. Tacpac works as a partnership between a ‘giving partner’ and a ‘receiving partner’.


  • Tacpac music is composed specifically to reflect the texture of each object so that the receiver experiences total sensory alignment.
  • Tacpac can be used by anyone.
  • Tacpac builds communication skills.
  • Tacpac enables progress to be measured and recorded.
  • Tacpac can be used in any setting – at home, in school, in hospital, in residential care or even outside

Throughout Tacpac, each piece of music has been selected carefully to evoke a certain mood and match a tactile sensation, and has been prepared with a mix of texture, volume, speed, rhythm and beat. It is important to stick to the beat throughout the activity.

Touch – The skin is the largest organ in the body, and has many receptors of varying densities. For many of our young people, touch is a primary means of contact and can be the beginnings of pre-intentional communication which means that the child does not intend to convey meaning however we can interpret the responses to have meaning.

Music –  From very young, we develop associations with sounds that accompany particular experiences – touch, taste, smell, emotion and people. Sound is also physical and contains vibrations which can be experienced throughout the whole body as well as the ears.

How Tacpac works

Each Tacpac activity has music which is specifically composed to reflect the texture of the object which goes with it. This means that your child experiences complete sensory alignment – what they see, is what they hear, is what they feel. Over time, this enables them to develop trust with you as their partner in communication. They can then begin to express themselves by showing what they feel or what they want.

Some of the objects used for Tacpac activities include: a washing up sponge, chopsticks, a pastry brush, a fan, a paint roller and marbles – to name a few. These are all objects which you may already have around your home. There is no need to buy any expensive equipment.

We hope this gives you an understanding of Tacpac as you consider using it at home.

Total Communication

Communication is an essential part of everyday life and is also a fundamental human right. It is the primary means of conveying and accessing information, it is how we express our needs and wants and also how we discuss thoughts, feelings and build relationships. Communication is the basis of how we socially interact with others, but it is not just talking.

It is not uncommon for individuals who have additional needs to have communication difficulties therefore, it is important that they are supported to use alternative ways to communicate their messages and increase positive interactions with others.

Total Communication is an approach that is used in Hillside School with all pupils and combines a range of modes of communication methods including verbal, non-verbal and written in order to allow individuals with communication difficulties to communicate in a way which is appropriate and accessible to them. We use a combination of objects of reference, photographs, Boardmaker symbols, Makaton signs, written words and also AAC devices including switches daily to allow our learners to be exposed to as many modes of communication as possible. These can also be replicated at home.


  • Verbal – vocalisations and spoken words
  • Non-verbal – signing, gesture, facial expressions, use of photos, symbols and use of objects
  • Written – written words or drawings

For Total Communication to be effective, we must provide 3 important components –

  1.  We must identify and support preferred and appropriate means of communication,
  2.  We must motivate individuals to communicate and also provide a reason for them to communicate with us,
  3.  We must create lots of opportunities for individuals to practise communicating with us .

Communication is a 2-way process therefore, it will only be successful if we use the same language. It is important to note that  for some individuals, their primary modes of communication may differ in school from that at home and that is ok. This is the reason why we must practise a combined approach of the modes of communication across a range of environments as often as possible in order to maximise effectiveness.

In Hillside, we try to encourage as much as possible the use of total communication at home too in order to further support our learners communication development. This gives pupils different contexts to practise their communication skills and is even more pertinent during lockdown when they are not in school.

Here are some hints to encourage communication with your child.


If you would like more information regarding total communication or advice on how to help your child then please get in touch. You can also find information, advice and ideas from Speech and Language Therapy in East Ayrshire Facebook page.

Hillside has our named SALT Claire McPherson who is available for advice and can be contacted through the school and there is also a weekly helpline where you can speak to an experienced East Ayrshire SALT. Please see below for times and contact details.

Online links –



Sensory Exploration – Smell (Olfactory)

This week we are moving on from focusing on our sense of touch, to think in more detail about our sense of smell (our olfactory sense). As I mentioned before, behaviour we observe in our children can often be linked to more than one sense (multi sensory), as all our senses are very closely linked.  With some observation, thought and discussion we can begin to pin point the sensory needs of our children more accurately.  This YouTube link to Sensory Spectacle focuses in on this point and explains its relation to the sense of smell:

Our sense of smell is really closely related to our emotions, as the information from this sense is taken to the same part of the brain that controls our emotions. I’m sure that makes perfect sense to you all…most of us will have experience of a  smell can ‘transporting’ us to another place and time. This can produce overwhelming feelings of nostalgia, happiness, sadness and fear.  We should always remember how powerful and emotive smell can be.

For individuals who are hypersensitive to smell (they avoid certain smells) you may see extreme responses to even faint smells, e.g. becoming very upset, running away, gagging.  It is important to remember your perfume, shower gel, shampoo or even the smell of washing powder from your clothes, could elicit an extreme response from someone who is hypersensitive to smell.

On the other hand, people who are hyposensitive to smell might seek out very strong smells, even smells that might be dangerous or perceived as unpleasant such as petrol or faeces.  By offering access to safer and more acceptable alternative strong smells it is possible to reduce the seeking of these less desirable ones.

I have included a couple of links to lovely, fun, olfactory sensory activities.  You should only really work with around two or three smells per session as your nose becomes overpowered by too many smells at one time.

If you have any essential oils you could pop a couple of drops on a cotton wool ball and place it in an empty bottle and let your child smell.  You could also use essence/oil used for baking, for example, peppermint or vanilla.  Alternatively you could even use some ‘smells’ from around your house e.g. a spray of mummy’s perfume on cotton wool (or on a scarf), a lemon wedge, crushed garlic, cloves, some rosemary from the garden.  An extension to this activity could be doubling the jars of scents and the child has to match like with like, or you could even have a visual for the child to match to the smell. This could be real object to smell or picture/symbol to smell matching.  Start with the light smells first building to the stronger ones, giving the child time to register and process the smell.  Watch carefully for responses to smells.

This activity below is not only a lovely olfactory activity, it will be visually stimulating and if you wish to get your hands in there it will be lovely and tactile too!

Homemade paint recipe with spices

The final activity I have chosen this week would be fun, hassle and mess free for a day when you just want to escape the house and be at one with nature.  Why not print the board below and go outside to the garden and explore some garden herbs…you could do this at the start or end of a lovely family walk. Explore the smells and if appropriate for your child, they could match the herb to the picture board.


I have again included some simple symbols your child will use at Hillside to express their likes and dislikes.  If you would like any resources sent home in packs or hard copies of the Boardmaker symbols please email me or phone the school.

like don’t like yes no

Please share any pictures of your activities via our Facebook page. Have a great week and stay safe.


Sensory Exploration – Touch

Hi Everyone,

I hope some of you enjoyed making and exploring some sensory playdough together last week. This week I am going to give you a little bit more information on the 8 human senses and share a few more touch focused activities before moving onto a different sensory system focus next week.

Following on from the link in last week’s blog to an ‘Introduction to Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)’ by Becky Liddon, founder of ‘Sensory Spectacle’, I thought I would include the link below which provides some insight as to why some children or adults may find it difficult to wear certain clothes. I know this can be an issue for many of our young people and can be as a result of sensory integration issues.

Humans have eight senses, which might come as a surprise as we are generally taught the five senses: taste, touch (tactile), smell (olfactory), vision and hearing (auditory). However we also have: proprioception, that is the sense of our body position in space, we get lots of this sensory information from our joints; vestibular, that is related to body position and movement, and the information relating to this sense is gathered from the inner ear; interoception, that is a sense which helps you feel and understand what is going on inside your body, examples of this would include recognising you are hungry, full, thirsty, hot or cold.

Some of our pupils may be extremely sensitive, or hypersensitive, to some sensory input. These pupils will try to avoid or minimise that sensory input, for example covering their ears when they are in a room with others if they are sensitive to sound.

Some of our pupils may be hyposensitive to some sensory input, which means they will seek lots of it, for example someone who loves to rock, or spin may be hyposensitive to vestibular input and therefore seek a lot of input through big exaggerated movements.

Touch is so important in the development of emotions. Loving, safe touch provides a sense of security and affects our personality are we grow and develop.  A nice idea is to collect some items from around your house for ‘massage’ on the skin of the hands, arms or feet.  For example you could collect a sponge, a loofah, a paint brush, a clean feather, satin or silky material and a body brush. Try exploring massage with these on the skin, and gauge your child’s reaction. They may prefer some sensations to others, they may like firm touch rather than light or vice versa. This might give you ideas about other objects to include in a ‘massage’ pamper session. To finish off you could get some nice body lotion or baby oil and give your child a hand or foot massage.

Below is a link to sensory treasure baskets with some good information and advice on how to create one for your child’s needs.


Below is another link to a sensory box guessing game. Children can explore items using their sense of touch.  This is lovely game to support language development in your child too. You could give them a visual choice of what they think they can feel, e.g. is it a banana or an apple?’.  Brothers and sisters might enjoy getting in on this too.

A HUGE List of Sensory Bins and Bags for Kids

Finally, I have included some simple large boardmaker symbols in the link below that you could use to allow you child to communicate likes and dislikes and offer a yes or no choice during touch activities.

like don’t like yes no

Please remember if you have any questions, require any support or would like help to source any materials or print outs my email address is or alternatively you can contact the school directly.

Have a great week,



Hi everyone.

I hope everyone is well. Our pupils use lots of visuals throughout their school day and they are used to support learning and understanding, helping them to make sense of the world.

The Benefits of Using Visuals-

  • they help us communicate and help our communications be understood
  • they let us see what is being asked and what is being said
  • they help us make and communicate choices
  • they can reduce anxiety
  • they increase predictability
  • they can increase participation and engagement  in activities

Some visuals may be useful for you to use at home particularly if your child is having difficulty coping with how different everyday life is at the moment.

A child who benefits from routine and knowing the order of the day might use a visual calendar or schedule to familiarise themselves with upcoming activities or events. A child who struggles with transitions such as leaving his/her home, moving on from an activity might find pictures illustrating the appropriate steps helpful.

Below are some examples of visual resources which can be tailored to your individual needs. If there is anything you would like to try at home then please send me an email and I will get these organised as quickly as possible –

If you would like to know about any particular resources that your child uses in class then this can be discussed at your weekly check-in’s.

DAILY/VISUAL TIMETABLE – a series of pictures or symbols to communicate a sequence of activities. They provide structure and improve understanding of what is happening over a specific period of time. Allows individuals to anticipate events and helps understanding of time, routine and expectations. Can be used for parts of a day or a full day.


ROUTINES – a series of pictures or symbols showing specific steps during a specific activity or routine. These improve understanding and also encourage independence.


FIRST AND THEN BOARDS – one of the simplest forms of visual schedule presenting what we are doing now (FIRST) and what we will do next (THEN). They are used to help individuals understand what is happening, helps them focus on an activity, especially if it is a less desirable one and can help transitions from one activity to the next.


CHOICE BOARDS – a visual tool that allow pupils to make and communicate choices between activities, items or tasks. They can have a choice of 2 or more, whatever is most suitable and can use photos or symbols.


EMOTIONS – these visuals can help pupils communicate how they are feeling since many find it difficult to express their emotions.

ZONES OF REGULATION – a cognitive behavioural approach used to teach self-regulatory skills using symbols and colours. If they are in the red zone, what can they do to get back to the green zone and feel happy again?


INDEPENDENCE SKILLS – a series of symbol steps to encourage understanding and independence to complete activities, tasks or routines. These can be broken down for any task and into as many steps as needed. 


SYMBOL RECIPES – recipes which  are broken into small steps and have symbol supported text to encourage comprehension and independence of functional skills. 


TOKEN BOARDS – a system that rewards desired behaviours and allows pupils to work for a motivating item or activity. Pupils can choose the reward from a choice board. The number of tokens can vary according to the individual.

Please have a look in the Album section of the Hillside Family Help and Hugs! Facebook page for more examples or get in touch for advice.

There is also a variety of resources and guidance to support learning at home from Education Scotland and The National Autism Implementation Team.

I hope these are helpful. Please let me know if you would like more information. Visuals which are relevant and appropriate for our wee people really can help!



All Together Now!

Well… here we are at the end of a year like no other!!

It seems appropriate to say goodbye to the old and be hopeful and joyful at the thought of a new year ahead with better times for us all we hope. But of course before that we should remind ourselves what our children have reminded us of this whole year. Life goes on and there is so much to be thankful for!

I am completely and utterly astounded every day at how our children and young people deal with whatever life throws at them with grace, dignity and joy! The changes we have been through this year as a school community are huge and yet here we are together on our amazing Barony Campus and our pupils have coped just fantastically. Beyond all our expectations they have shown us the power of the human spirit and every day they exemplify our school motto by being just FANTASTIC!  How wonderful it is to spend our days with these amazing young people. They teach us all a lesson in life!

This year Christmas has been a bit different for us all but Hillside pupils have kept the fun going and have been just so fantastic that Santa came to visit!! Apparently no-one is on the naughty list so good news all round!


Finally I wanted to share with you a wonderful poem that a lovely parent wrote for us to mark the end of life in our old school but to remind us all that a school is far more than a building. It is the people and life inside that makes somewhere special and today I want to thank our whole school community – parents, pupils, staff and friends – our ‘Hillside Family’ – for everything they do day in, day out to make our school community so special.

Wishing you ALL a very Merry Christmas!!


All Together Now!


Go Purple Day Fun for the Ayrshire Hospice

Hillside Pupils had a ball today at our Go Purple Day in aid of Ayrshire Hospice. We also celebrated Harvest and enjoyed a special virtual ceremony with our lovely minister Helen Cuthbert so pupils were still able to hear her wonderful songs and happy music and give thanks for all that we enjoy at this time of year.

This term our staff team have worked so hard to make sure that our children and young people continue to experience many exciting learning experiences despite COVID restrictions. Today’s Go Purple Day and Harvest celebration was a perfect example and I want to say thank you to everyone who helped organise such fun in army style fashion to maintain all our safe protocols! The pupils had a ball and we even managed a whole school virtual Beetle Drive on our big class screens which was more great fun! There really are so many positives to celebrate!

Someone enjoying a sensory experience before a crazy fun whole school beetle drive!

The Ayrshire Hospice is a charity that is close to many of our hearts and so I thank everyone for supporting the day and helping us raise the wonderful amount of £180 so far in addition to a huge box of foods to go to our local foodbanks.



Since we started raising money for the Ayrshire Hospice in 2018 and including the staff team’s mammoth walking challenge during lockdown in memory of our lovely Rosie we have raised the amazing total of £6,200. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to such a worthwhile cause.

You really are fantastic!





A sneaky peek!


Happy Friday Everyone!

We thought we would end the week with a sneaky peek at our new school and some of our lovely mosaics! We visited Barony Campus last week with Fiona McGregor the mosaic artist who was working with children and families prior to lockdown on a fantastic creative project to be installed in the new building. Children and families created pieces of art incorporating things that are special to them as individuals and Fiona has been busy turning these into individual mosaic pieces to be installed in the new building as well as restoring an existing historical piece originally created by previous  pupils. These items will help us to take some of Hillside’s history and loving family ethos with us to our new school where we will be ready to make lots of new memories and Hillside stories!  










We hope you’ll agree they are just fantastic! During our visit Fiona worked with the architects to look at where it would be best to put each mosaic and we cannot wait till this is all in place and everyone gets to see it all! Remember that the project is still ongoing so if your child hasn’t been involved yet don’t worry – that will be happening very soon!

Now here is the sneaky peek at some of our new school – the soft play and sensory room were just amazing to see and the space in our classrooms and teaching areas will be so beneficial for all our pupils.

We will let you see more photos over the coming weeks and there will be the chance for a Parent Council representative to visit in October and feedback to all parents as well as share any photos at this point. It is all so exciting! We are definitely on the countdown now – only 11 weeks to go! We will keep you all posted! In the meantime have a lovely weekend


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