What Does Hypersensitivity to Touch Look Like?

Does hypersensitivity to touch interfere with your child’s ability to function throughout the day? One’s nervous system may incorrectly perceive tactile input (or touch) as threatening, thus causing distress or anxiety during the following activities:

–Mealtime: doesn’t like having food on his hands or face

–Dressing: has to have tag removed, irritated by seams in socks, only tolerates certain fabrics

–Outside play: doesn’t like to walk barefoot in the grass or sand, doesn’t like to get dirt on hands

–Table top play: prefers wooden and plastic toys versus Playdoh, shaving cream, or fingerpainting

–Hygiene: aversion to having teeth brushed or nose wiped

If your child demonstrates tactile hypersensitivity that interferes with their activities of daily living, they would benefit from an Occupational Therapy evaluation.

These are a few suggestions to work towards decreasing your child’s tactile hypersensitivity and to help build a strong foundation for healthy tactile sensory processing.

Start by engaging your child in dry play with sensory bins made of dry rice, beans, pomp oms, etc. Your child can drop small plastic figurines or toy cars into the sensory bin, bury the motivating objects, find the “hidden treasure”, or use cups for scooping and pouring the contents from the sensory bin. Playdoh is a great activity to move to when your child tolerates dry material on their hands because Playdoh leaves behind minimal residue on the hands. If your child does not want to engage with rolling and squishing of Playdoh, then use cookie cutters, a plastic knife, small car, or beads to pair with the playdoh. Finally, introduce messy mediums that stick to the hands such as shaving cream, fingerpainting, and slime. If initially your child is fearful to play with messy material then put it inside of a ziplock bag so they can explore the contents in a non-threatening manner. Another approach to messy play is to use a manipulative to play in the messy material such as a plastic figurine or toy car. The end goal of messy play is for your child to make full palm contact with messy material. NEVER force a child to play in messy material, but rather provide a safe environment for them to explore messy material so that they can have a positive, successful experience.

***Some of the above recommendations contain small objects that are not appropriate for children who put objects in their mouth.

– Lisa, Occupational Therapy