Tactile Stimulation

Today I am starting a series about “sense-ational” music therapy activities.

Many of the children I work with at UCP’s Early Beginnings Academy have a diagnosis of severe and profound intellectual disability or autism spectrum disorder. Both groups of children benefit from what we call “sensory based” activities – activities that tap into our five senses.

Some examples of sensory based music activities include: feeling vibrations from the gathering drum or tone bar; listening to instruments like the gong or the kalimba that have unique sound qualities; or smelling pumpkin or cinnamon scents with an accompanying song.

Here is a video clip of a music therapy intervention where I am using the cabasa to provide tactile stimulation.

I wrote the song “Roll the Cabasa” to the tune of “La Cucaracha” and haven’t been able to get it out of my head since!


In Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) terms, this intervention is known as Musical Sensory Orientation Training (MSOT).

Essentially, we are using music and instruments to access sensory channels, modify state, and provide sensory stimulation for neuronal growth. We are also looking to elicit basic behavioral responses such as dishabituation, localization, and visual tracking.

Did you pick up on those behaviors in this video? Here’s what I noticed, to name a few…

– Localization (turning the head towards the instrument sound)
– Head and body movement
– Visual tracking
– Eye opening
– Reaching out to touch the instrument
– Vocalizations
– Giggles!

What sense-ational music therapy activities are YOU using? Care to share?

Check out Sensational Songs & Activities E-Book for more ideas, sheet music, & themed session plans:

Sensational Songs & Activities