Many children on the Autism Spectrum experience Sensory Processing issues. The best way to describe SPD is from Wikipedia: a neurological disorder causing difficulties with taking in, processing and responding to sensory information about the environment and from within the own body (visual, auditory, tactile, olfaction, gustatory, vestibular and proprioception).
Being oversensitive to touch is a tactile disorder – specifically dealing with input from touch, pressure, temperature, and pain receptors.
Although my son can simultaneously exhibit over- and under sensitivity to all things regarding touch (example: laying a hand on his shoulder to comfort him will cause him to recoil in pain, yet he frequently craves and seeks ‘bear hugs’), these symptoms below are very familiar to us.
Does your child show any of these signs of tactile dysfunction?
__ Becomes fearful or aggressive with light or unexpected touch
__ Did not like to be held or cuddled as a baby; would arch back and pull away
__ Will not let you brush his/her hair, or insist you use a particular brush
__ Resists most affectionate touch, especially kisses
__ Raindrops or water from the shower may feel like being pelted with stones
__ May overreact to minor cuts and scrapes
__ Issues with new or stiff clothes, especially jeans, sweaters, and other rough materials
__ Refuses to wear socks because of seams
__ Can’t stand getting hands dirty or participating in messy play
__ Extremely ticklish
__ Distressed by clothes rubbing on skin; takes clothes off as soon/often as possible
__ Hygiene issues: distressed about having face washed, hair cut, teeth brushed and nails clipped
__ Trips to the dentist are very anxiety-ridden
__ Is an extremely picky eater, only eating certain tastes and textures; avoids hot or cold foods and trying new foods
How do you help your child?
Here are some sensory exercises that can be done at home:
- Finger painting with shaving cream or pudding (never force your child to touch something “messy” if they are not willing – let them use a paintbrush or utensil)
- Sandbox play – or make an indoor sandbox with dried beans and rice
- Playdough or clay (here is a Gluten-free recipe for playdough)
- Let your child drink plain seltzer to experience bubbles in his mouth
- Have a costume dress up party to let your child experiment with different material textures
- Repot some indoor plants or start a small garden
- Play salon: have your child “groom” their favorite stuffed animal or doll and then trade places
- Feather tickling
- Play “guess the letter” by writing on your child’s back with your finger
- Human tacos – wrap your child in a blanket and leave a small opening to add “toppings” – shredded newspaper for lettuce, bouncy balls for olives, a wet washcloth to apply taco sauce (water only, please!), etc. Bonus: use a yoga ball to press the taco into a quesadilla!
What other sensory activities do you enjoy at home? Let me know by commenting below or posting on the SOA Facebook page – I’d love to hear your successes!