Grace Kim


Master of Research Student

Thesis Title

Calming effects of repetition in music for children with sensory sensitivities

Research Project

Children with sensory sensitivities often miss out on the emotional, social, and developmental benefits of live music, as they are unable to regulate their senses when required to meet the traditional concert expectation of sitting still and being quiet. The majority of people on the autism spectrum experience some form of sensory processing difficulties. Repetitive behaviour such as flapping, rocking, and spinning are a typical way to self-regulate and reduce anxiety, yet the stigma attached to these behaviour can attract social judgement and isolation.This research investigates how the predictability of repetition in classical music can reduce anxiety for children aged 5-16 with sensory sensitivities. The two-part experimental study uses both one-on-one and group settings to study the children’s responses to live music with strong and weak repetition. For both studies, parents or carers are asked to observe and record their child’s responses to the music by filling in a questionnaire using behavioural observation rating scale designed to assess responses to music (MiDAS), and a standard anxiety scale (MASC). A pilot study (Study 1) involving one-on-one music sessions with a single musician will also include facial expression analysis and measurement of arousal level by a finger oximeter. The group session (Study 2) is in the form of a live concert. Music with strong and weak repetitions will be performed by professional musicians. The children will be listening as a group with their parents or carers observing and filling in the questionnaires and anxiety scale regarding their children’s responses to the music. It is anticipated that music with strong predictable internal repetition will reduce anxiety in children with sensory sensitivities to a greater extent than music with weak repetition. The findings will help inform musical programming for existing and future sensory-friendly concerts. The results will be publicly available to interested parties in the arts, allied health, and education sectors and promote further research in sensory-friendly programming.


  • M.Mus - University of Melbourne
  • M.Mus (Cum Laude) - CODARTS, Rotterdam Conservatorium
  • Dip.Mus - University of Sydney, Sydney Conservatorium
  • Inaugural Fellow - Australian National Academy of Music
  • F.Mus.A, L.Mus.A - AMEB


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