Tactile Defensiveness: more than just itchy scratchy

Updated: Nov 8, 2020

"This shirt tag is really itchy. Do you mind helping me handle it?"

Yeah, right. That's never how our kids with tactile defensiveness handle sensory issues. Instead, we're running around trying to figure out if it's the funny tasting breakfast cereal, the annoying radio station, or the gloomy weather that's setting out kid off. Tactile issues can set our kids into overdrive really quickly.

What are some great ways to help a child who struggles with tactile defensiveness?

1) Deep Touch Pressure

Deep touch pressure helps the body re-regulate itself and leave 'fight or flight' mode. This is why tight hugs can be so calming during a temper tantrum.

Not only is deep touch pressure great when a child is feeling overwhelmed, it's a great primer too. By adding deep touch pressure into the child's daily routine, you can gradually decrease tactile defensiveness overtime and better prep the child's body for tactile sensations they'll face.

2) The Wilbarger Brushing Protocol

Be sure to receive proper training before implementing this with a child.

3) Have Fun with Sensory Play

The more that the child can have fun with different textures and experiences, the more they'll associate positively with tactile sensations. While tactile defensiveness is never easy to manage, there can be a lot of benefits to exploring each individual child's triggers to find the best sensory solutions to try.

Diana is an occupational therapist and the founder of The Sensory Toolbox, a place for education and resources on all things sensory. Read more about her take on tactile defensiveness in this post.

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