In pediatric occupational therapy, we often encounter children who experience sensory issues. This often presents in heightened sensitivity to sensory input, including sights, sounds, smells, textures (or touch), or tastes. If a child experiences a heightened sensitivity to textures and touch, then their tactile system is affected by their sensory issues. The touch receptors, which are located all over our skin, help us interpret what we feel, including pain, temperature, and texture.
A child who experiences tactile-defensiveness or tactile sensitivity exhibit negative responses to particular sensory input. For example, they might recoil when someone attempts to hug them or find a tag on their clothing to be painful. While these behaviors may seem extreme to someone who does not experience sensory issues, these behaviors are a direct result of how their brains process sensory information.
5 types of OT-approved tactile play
Texture balloons: Try filling small balloons with different textures. These will almost act as a “stress ball” for your child to practice playing with different tactile information.
Finger painting: This is an oldie, but goodie. This can help a child to build their tactile processing by forcing them to get their hands dirty and paint.
Sensory bins: Creating a sensory bin is a great way to expose kiddos to an array of different textures. Try and pick an assortment when you create your sensory bin, so that you can really exercise their tactile processing skills.
Water beads: These can be used as sensory toys on their own or placed inside of water balloons. The texture of these can help a child to build their sensory processing.
Sand tray: Fill a plastic tray with sand, as this is a unique texture. Your child can then use this to practice tracing different letters, numbers, etc.
How occupational therapy can help with tactile-defensiveness
A pediatric occupational therapist, or OT, can help your child to address their sensory needs. An OT will be able to devise a treatment plan with extensive exercises to work on processing tactile information.
Do you believe that your child could improve their tactile play skills through occupational therapy? At Chicago Occupational Therapy, we provide a range of different services for children, including applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Contact us today to learn more about pediatric occupational therapy in Chicago!