Monday, March 19, 2012

Tactile Defensiveness

Overview: A largely unrecognized condition called Tactile Defensiveness, is a physical condition that renders one overly sensitive to certain touch sensations.
Symptoms: Children who have tactile defensiveness are sensitive to touch sensations and can be easily overwhelmed by, and fearful of, ordinary daily experiences and activities. Sensory defensiveness can prevent a child from play and interactions critical to learning and social interactions. Often, children with tactile defensiveness (hypersensitivity to touch/tactile input) will avoid touching, become fearful of, or bothered by the following:  
  • textured materials/items

  • "messy" things

  • vibrating toys, etc.

  • a hug

  • a kiss

  • certain clothing textures

  • rough or bumpy bed sheets

  • seams on socks

  • tags on shirts

  • light touch

  • hands or face being dirty

  • shoes and/or sandals

  • wind blowing on bare skin

  • bare feet touching grass or sand
    Child becomes emotionally overwhelmed by daily routines such as putting on clothing, socks and shoes. Many children with tactile defensiveness will only use their fingertips (if they even DO touch certain things) when playing with sand, glue, paint, play-doh, food, glitter etc. Consequently, their play is limited and so is their ability to engage in learning experiences. Children may become fearful, avoid activities, withdraw, or act out as their body responds with a "fight-or-flight" response. These children are deeply bothered by sudden light touch sensations and may prefer not to be hugged,kissed or touched by others. They will also be more aware of subtle details such as seams, tags and buttons on clothing as well as having very strong objections to certain fabrics and textures. It is a symptom of Sensory Processing Disorder. 
    Tests/Diagnosis: Children can be diagnosed with tactile defensiveness by therapists, early interventionists, developmental physicians, or neurologists through a variety of methods, namely responses to sensory stimuli and developmental evaluation. Tactile Defensiveness can be a single primary diagnosis or a "sub-diagnosis" of other conditions such as neurological disorders, neuromuscular conditions, brain malformations or anomolies, gobal developmental delays, Down Syndrome, CP, and autism to name a few. To date, the best two treatments available to help decrease tactile defensiveness are The Wilbarger Brushing Protocol and the use of deep pressure/weighted products (links to both are provided below). A child with tactile defensiveness needs to be in OT! They need to have the underlying sensory defensiveness addressed in order to achieve the proper developmental milestones and social interactions necessary. It will not go away on it's own. Coupled with OT, a good sensory diet and home program will help. You will find some ideas for activities/games/products to use and "how" to use them below:

    • Occupational therapy
    • Sand therapy
    • Hippo-therapy
    • The Wilbarger Protocol Brushing Method
    • Cranial Sacral Therapy
    • Naturopathy
    • Sensory Therapy
    My family and I struggled with having our daughter's behavior misunderstood. The books that were available on the topic, were quite complex and averaging at 300 pages."I'll Tell You Why ...I Can't Wear Those Clothes!" was written in order to raise awareness and compassion, in a short, simple and child friendly language. The inclusion of a drawing journal format invites the reader to share their individual feelings.

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