Sonas aPc

Sonas aPc is a not-for-profit company and registered charity.


Sonas aPc was pioneered in 1990 by Sr Mary Threadgold, a Dublin-based Sister of Charity and speech and language therapist. She was concerned about the lack of stimulation for older people in residential care, particularly those with dementia.

Drawing on her skills and experience as a speech & language therapist, Sr Mary sought to develop a group activity specifically for people with dementia. There is a large body of scientific evidence that supports the link between communication and the various senses. Sr Mary had found music and touch to be very effective when working with young people with intellectual disabilities and felt that the approach could be broadened to incorporate all of the senses. She was also aware of the importance of structure and repetition for people with dementia.

The Sonas approach brings these concepts together to produce a group session, the essential features of which are sensory, social and cognitive stimulation. It is recorded on CD/cassette to enable the practitioner to completely focus on the participant(s) and so that the session is replicated each time it is carried out.

In 2000, Sr Mary worked in collaboration with Sandra Munro, an experienced speech & language therapist based in a healthcare trust in Northern Ireland, to adapt Sonas for use with adults with intellectual disabilities. The result was Anam. This programme shares the same essential features as Sonas but is tailored to the specific needs of adults with intellectual disabilities.

The Needs of Older People whose Communication is Impaired

Older people whose communication is impaired are perhaps the most isolated group in day and residential settings. Dementia, stroke or intellectual disabilities can lead to a whole range of communication issues. It especially affects verbal communication skills. When a person cannot verbally express his/her needs and wishes, it is difficult to provide quality of care. Something as simple as a hearing aid that needs adjustment can result in frustration and distress for client and staff.

When staff have an understanding of the nature of communication and how it is affected by conditions such as dementia, they have more insight into how to connect with those in their care. Not only does this greatly enhance the quality of care they deliver, it also enhances their own work environment.

Sonas, SIMS and Anam sessions are tools that may be used to engage with the participants and to get to know the individual behind the disability.

The Approach

The Sonas Group Session is not a recreational group activity like bingo, nor is it a therapy such as art or music therapy. It is a therapeutic activity that is completely focused on communication.

Sonas and SIMS sessions are for older people with Alzheimers Disease and other forms of dementia, some types of stroke, advanced Parkinson’s Disease and sometimes those who are experiencing extreme social isolation.

The Sonas Group Session is carried out in day and residential centres, including hospitals and nursing homes. SIMS (the Sonas Individual Multi-sensory Session) is an adaptation of the Sonas Group Session for use on a one-to-one basis, either in a quiet room or the family home.

Anam is a separate programme for older people with intellectual disabilities. While it also features multi-sensory stimulation, structure and repetition, it is tailored to the particular needs of those with intellectual disabilities. Some of these clients may also have dementia.

All of those who participate in Sonas, SIMS or Anam sessions may benefit from the Individual Session that is based on music and touch. This session involves gentle massage of the head, shoulders, back, hands to gentle music. It is important to differentiate this gentle, relaxing one-to-one activity from the more active and stimulating SIMS session.

The aim of all the programmes is to enrich the lives of the participants by activating each person’s potential for communication.


  • To activate the potential for communication that has been retained by the older person with communication impairment.
  • To encourage the creation of an environment which facilitates communication.
  • To have activation of potential for communication recognised and accepted as an essential part of care planning for older people.

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