What is it?
The tactile system receives information from the environment around us through receptors on our skin that receive touch. Our body then is able to interpret this information and decide how to respond to it. Tactile sensory processing is necessary to develop skills needed for daily activities and social relationships. When the brain has difficulties understanding and responding to tactile information it may be expressed as hyperrosponsiveness or hyporesponsiveness.
If a child is hyperrosponsive to tactile input, their brain is too easily excited by touch and they may display tactile avoidance behaviors. They feel every little touch and are unable to ignore it. Different food or clothing textures, messy play, and physical contact may be irritating or even painful to these children. If a child is hyporesponsive to tactile input, their brain needs more touch in order to know how to respond appropriately. They may display tactile seeking behaviors. These children may touch everything in sight; seem to always be messy; or constantly wanting physical contact.
Signs to Look For
|Hyperresponsive / Avoidance Behaviors||Hyporesponsive / Seeking Behaviors|
|Doesn't like getting dirty or messy play||Constantly touches others (hits, pushes)|
|Doesn't like certain clothing / textures,
seams in socks or tight clothing
|Likes to put objects inn mouth|
|Picky eater||Likes to touch everything|
|Distressed by hair brushing or hair washing||Unaware of being touched by someone else|
|May fear physical contact, being tickled, or hugs||Seems to always be messy or dirty|
|May walk on toes|
How Occupational Therapy Can Help
Occupational Therapy (OT) can help children with tactile sensory processing difficulties better engage in activities at home school and in the community. OT can decrease tactile avoidance and tactile seeking behaviors be presenting oppourtunities for play combined with tactile experiences; expand food repertoire by introducing new food textures; provide sensory integration strategies to increase sensory input into other sensory systems that may help to regulate the tactile system; and work with parents and caregivers to educate about activities to try at home.
Parent Support Facebook Group: search "Suppport for Sensory Needs" click "join group"
Ideas to Try at Home
Deep pressure (not light touch)
Messy play activities (finger paint, play doh)
Sensory bins (Toys / objects in rice, beans, sand, etc)
Squishing between pillows
Toys that vibrate