Intervention Inspiration Series: Motor Activity & Cognitive Stimulation

As a new initiative for MTSA this summer, we are choosing to share different ideas for Music Therapy practice in the hopes that this will provide a valuable resource for beginning music therapists and as inspiration for practicing therapists. Every Monday, a different intervention idea will be presented. They will be very basic and will be best as beginning inspiration to be varied and adapted for different clinical settings. They may include specific music, but will typically only indicate the style of music to be incorporated.

The following basic format will be given for each intervention: 1) Activity, the type of intervention; 2) Target population, the intended client population for the intervention; 3) Materials, the instruments and supplies required; 4) Goals/Aims, ideas for goals or aims that could be addressed in the intervention; 5) Method, a detailed description of what would occur during the intervention; 6) Comments, an explanation of why this intervention is applicable for the given client population and how the goals/aims are addressed; and 7) Evaluation, questions to allow for reflection on whether or not the intervention was effective for a particular client or clients.

Motor Activity & Cognitive Stimulation

by Sophia Christopher

Motor Activity

Photo Source


Singing and Playing a Specific Rhythm

Target Population:

Younger Children 3-10 with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)


A variety of percussion instruments, such as bongo drums, floor drums, tambourine, etc.


– To motivate participation from all group members

– To encourage and strengthen speech and vocalization

– To augment the work done in speech language pathology: phonation, pitch

– To encourage both gross and fine motor abilities by playing instruments

– To stimulate cognitive function

– To encourage discussion of all group members

– To facilitate social interaction


The music therapist will assign a specific rhythm and tone to each client to continue welcoming them to the therapeutic session.  Before the activity, the music therapist will ask the children to pick a drumming instrument.  If they are unable to do so, the music therapist will provide an option of two instruments.

During the session, the music therapist will play and sing the assigned rhythm to the each client, “hel-lo, cli-ent.”  The music therapist will then invite the client to join him or her, speaking and playing at the same time, and then invite the rest of the group to participate.

The activity can then be extended if the activity is going well and the participants are still focused.  After everyone has been specifically welcomed, the music therapist will ask each member of the group to name something they like, like their favourite food or hobby.  This item will then replace their names in the rhythm.  Similar to before, first the music therapist will play, then a specific participant with the music therapist, and finally the group as a whole.


Autism is a severe developmental disability, which involves social, as well as, verbal and non-verbal communicative impairments.  Children with ASD often have difficulties in remembering and recognizing faces.  These social and communication impairments emerge early in one’s life, often around the age of two or three (Frith and Happe, 2005).

By saying hello to specific members of the group, this will facilitate the names an faces of the participants in the group, as well as promoting social interactions, as the music therapist and the greeted client will make eye contact.  The brain size of children with ASD has also been shown to be larger in size, due to a lack of pruning.  With cognitive stimulation and recalling preferred items or hobbies, this may help to promote cognitive pruning.  Finally, by drumming and singing or speaking at the same time, this will increase concentration levels, as well as fine motor abilities.  Overall, this activity will help to improve social interactions and verbal communication skills.


Where the rhythms too hard for the clients to play back?

Were the clients able to sing and play the rhythm at the same time?

If a participant had difficulties, were they able to play and sing (or speak) the rhythms separately?

Did other clients participate when they were not specifically being addressed?

Did every client select a favourite item or hobby?

Did group members interact with each other by making body movements or eye contact?


Frith, U. & Happe, F. (2005). Autistic spectrum disorder.  Current Biology, 15(9), 86-90.


About Laurier MTSA

We are a student association at Wilfrid Laurier University and most of our members are students in the Music Therapy program. We exist to educate about, promote, and support the work of music therapy, and to support the academic, career, and personal needs of the Music Therapy Students. Our mandate is to unite prospective, current and alumni students while promoting our profession in the larger community.
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