Topic outline

  • Tacpac

    What is Tacpac?
    Tacpac is an activity resource for helping people with sensory or neurological impairment, developmental delay, profound and multiple learning difficulties, tactile defensiveness, and limited or pre-verbal communication. It provides a structured, emotionally safe framework for the 'receiving partner' to make contact with their own bodies, their environment and other people, and develop a relationship with these. The 'giving partner' ensures that each tactile experience is well organised and sensitively offered, and adjusted to suit the receving partner's responses.

    What happens?

    Tacpac begins with the simple sense of touch with a familiar, easy-to-get-hold-of, everyday object, such as a kitchen sponge, a wooden spatula, or some furry fabric. The experience is then enhanced through the principle of 'sensory alignment'. We have then composed a piece of music specifically to match the texture, character, and even the emotional quality of the touch experience. The activity and object is announced on the CD before each piece of music starts. The receiving partner hears what they see and what they feel on their skin: sensory alignment - and sensory reinforcement for seeing, hearing and touching.

    Through linking what becomes familiar music with objects, actions and people in a pattern of different activities, the partners communicate with each other.

    Each Tacpac session lasts around half an hour, and consists of 6 of these experiences in a sequence carefully planned for maximum variety of stimulus, always ending with a relaxing piece of music.

    To set up a session, we use  a disturbance free zone, the Tacpac CD, a CD player, the objects themselves, and the colour-matched A4 laminate that describes the six activities.

    Using Tacpac over time

    A session like this could be repeated with the receiver perhaps twice a week for three to four months. To begin with, they might be unfamiliar with it, and wary of touch experiences - 'tactile defensive'. The reactions will give clues to what they like and dislike (see guidance booklet included with every pack). As you repeat the sessions over a number of weeks or months (or over a few days eg within short term respite care visits), the receiving partner begins to recognise the music, and anticipate the next touch experience; they can relax more into the sessions, actively showing anticipation of their favourite objects or music, and interacting with them more. Over time, they may also begin to relate more obviously with the giving partner. It is the building of trust which can help both giver and receiver develop greater confidence in communicating with each other, perhaps meaningfully for the first time.

    There are two packs - Tacpac® One and Tacpac® Two. Each pack contains 3 CDs with matching laminates, so material for 3 distinct sessions or potentially a year of work with each pack. 

    Who can benefit?

    Tacpac is used by infants, children, siblings, parents, portage workers, therapists, carers, education (nursery, primary and secondary) and health professionals, and is now also finding applications in adult day care centres and colleges, mental health, geriatric and dementia settings.

    Tacpac was a prizewinner in the UK Special Educational Needs Awards 2007 sponsored by nasen (National Association for Special Educational Needs) and the TES (Times Educational Supplement).

  • Tacpac® Top Tips

    Help 'pupils' prepare for each new experience by showing them the object first, bringing it up close for them to inspect; they also might want to handle it before you use it on their body.

    Give the 'pupil' their own set of objects to handle while you run the session (so gather 2 of everything).

    Experiment using greater pressure. Some pupils may not have a strong sense of their body or where parts of their body are located (weak proprioception), and the greater pressure helps them work out what is going on, and which part of the body is being touched.

    Help the 'pupil' feel physically stable. If the pupil has difficulty orienting their body in space, sitting up etc, then they can find it difficult to concentrate on anything else until they feel secure in their own physical space - let them lie down if they want, or prop themselves firmly up against something. Once they feel physically stable, then they will be able to focus on the music and touch experiences.

    Always try to go at the 'pupil's' pace. If the pupil finds it difficult to manage a whole session (the 6 activities with one CD), you can fast forward to the end of a track, and just do short sections of each.

    One set (the 6 activities with one CD) can be used over a long period, e.g. 3 school terms, or 8 months for a receiver with profound and multiple learning difficulties, repeating the same session weekly. A young person may use Tacpac for years, and take it with them from their early years setting into other contexts as they get older.

    Pauses between tracks. If you or the pupil need longer than the 30 second silence after each activity, use the pause button on the CD player.

    Repeating tracks / activities. You may want to repeat an activity, or make it longer. Use the back button on the CD player and play the track again.


    Encourage the pupil to become a giver. They may want to do the activity on themselves, or on you.

    Intensify colour. If the pupil is visually impaired, add some florescent paint to the objects, or find shiny versions of them.

    Monitor changes over time. Use the observation sheets to jot down the pupil's responses each time, and compare your notes over time.

    Responses are to be welcomed, whatever they are. The pupil may reject an object or tactile stimulus, but this should not be seen as a 'negative' or a problem. It is an indication that the pupil has experienced something, and expressed a preference, which is a positive!

    Let someone do a session on you. This is great fun! It also gives you a good insight into what a pupil you work with might be experiencing.

    Include young children as givers. 

    Positioning speakers. 
    Many people with PMLD have hearing difficulties as well; do think carefully about where the speakers are placed and experiment with various levels available on your equipment