Tacpac, which stands for a Tactile Approach to Communication pack, is a type of therapy that combines the sense of touch and music through social interaction. It is particularly beneficial for people with sensory processing difficulties, sensory impairment (blindness/deafness) loss of memory, etc. It is used by learning disability nurses, speech therapists, psychologists and occupational therapists but parents, caregivers and teachers can also learn this method.
Based on the idea of tactile play, it uses the skin – which is the body’s largest sensory organ – as a primary means of contact. A “helper” or administrator of the therapy, uses a variety of touches, textures, warmth/coolness, etc. on a “receiver” with the goal of promoting a response from the receiver. Each touch stimulus is accompanied by a short and specially composed piece of music that is designed to match the touch in mood.
According to co-founder Hilary Wainer, BMus, Med, DipMTh, Dip Psychotherapy, Tacpac was created in 1995 in response to the total lack of tactile/music resources available for the type of children she was working with at the time – children with severe learning disabilities, Down Syndrome, autism, and a host of other communication difficulties.
One day, she was with a colleague, who was a movement specialist and was holding a session in the hall of the school where they were both working. Her tape recorder broke and she needed music so she ran into Wainer’s room and asked her to wheel the old piano into the hall and improvise some music so that her lesson could progress.
“The result was very exciting,” Wainer writes on the website. “The improvised music, with the feely sensations we gave to the children, was a hit. To cut a long story short, we repeated the session for many weeks. The other staff became enthusiastic, and asked us to make it into something more permanent, easy to use and transport, so they could do this too.”
They eventually created Tacpac, which is now used to help people of all ages and abilities, from birth to the elderly with dementia.
Wainer’s background is in teaching and music therapy. She has spent years working alongside children with a wide range of learning disabilities and has a special interest in working with people who have profound and multiple learning difficulties. She is also an accredited music therapy supervisor with the British Association of Music Therapists and has worked as a facilitator in schools and mental health settings. Check out the latest travel therapy jobs.
SPEECH, LANGUAGE, AND COMMUNICATION
A speech-language pathologist (often called a speech therapist, or shortened to SLP) is a person who evaluates and treats speech, language, and swallowing disorders. SLPs work with both children and adults with many different disorders. SLPs are often part of the team that works with a child on the autism spectrum. While speech and language are discussed together, they refer to somewhat different, although related things.
These are some key terms within each area:
- Articulation: How we pronounce speech sounds; for example saying fwog instead of frog
- Voice: How our voice sounds when we talk; for example speaking too loudly in a small closed space, or using an unusually high pitched voice instead of a normal voice
- Fluency: The rhythm or flow of speech; for example speaking with ease, or having difficulty speaking smoothly or getting the words out
- Receptive language: Understanding what others say to us; for example, if someone tells us their favorite color is red, we know what that means
- Expressive language: How we communicate our wants, thoughts, ideas, and feelings; for example, we tell the waiter in the restaurant we want macaroni and cheese for lunch and that is what we get
- Pragmatic language: How we use language socially; for example, two or more people have a conversation, back and forth taking turns listening and speaking, understanding, and responding in relation to what was said
What is the goal of speech-language therapy for a child on the autism spectrum?
Every child on the autism spectrum is different and may have difficulty with any area of speech, language, or swallowing. However, all children on the spectrum have difficulty with pragmatic language, or how we use language socially to interact with others. What an SLP works on in therapy depends on the needs and developmental level of the child. Some common goals of therapy may include:
- Functional communication: Many children on the autism spectrum receive speech-language therapy because they are not speaking, are only talking a little, or because others cannot understand what they are saying. Often the first goal of therapy is to help children find a way to communicate their wants and needs on their own. This could take the form of words, sounds, sign language, pictures, or a communication device.
- Using language for many different purposes: We expect children to use words for many reasons – asking for things, showing things, asking questions, answering questions, and trying to get attention. Some children on the autism spectrum may not use language at all and might throw tantrums rather than using a word to ask for what they want. Or, some children may say some words but only use them in certain situations (for example, children might say “ball” when they see a ball but do not use that word to ask for a ball, or to show their parents/caretakers the ball). SLPs can help children learn to use words in many different ways, and parents and caretakers can help them practice their words and skills.
- Following social “rules”: There are rules that we use when talking to others that most children learn without being taught, for example, making eye contact, taking turns while talking, and using body language to show we are interested in what someone is saying. Autistic individuals often have a hard time using these cues and also understanding when someone else uses them. An SLP may help children work on these skills.
- Expressive language development: Children on the autism spectrum often have delays or gaps in how they use words. A speech-language pathologist can help children learn new vocabulary words, rules of grammar (how to put words together into sentences), to ask and answer questions, and many other things to help them communicate more like other children their age.
- Receptive language development: Children on the autism spectrum might also have difficulty understanding words and sentences. An SLP might also help children develop their receptive language skills, including finding objects or pictures by name or description, following directions, and understanding questions.