As stated in my previous blog “Why is my Child Sensitive to Clothing”, our goal as occupational therapists is to help children with tactile defensiveness to re-train their brains in order to identify and process various tactile inputs appropriately, and to best engage in age-appropriate activities, including wearing a variety of clothing. Listed below are several activities that occupational therapists use within your child’s sessions in order to address their tactile hypersensitivities. These activities can also be replicated at home as part of a home exercise program.
Activities For Children With Tactile Hypersensitivities:
- Play in a variety of media (e.g. rice bin, sandbox, shaving cream, finger paint, cotton balls,and glue)
- Tortilla Roll-Up: Roll your child tightly inside a blanket (weighted blanket is appropriate too) with his arms crossed over his/her chest or next to their body; Then, give your child squishes to provide him/her with increased tactile and proprioceptive input (body awareness).
- Pillow Squishes: Have your child lie between two large pillows or beanbags and provide him/her with squishes. As every child will be different, make sure to listen to the child and ask him if he would like soft, medium or hard squishes,Their preferences might even change depending on the day.
- Theraputty: Have your child locate marbles or coins inside the theraputty (playdough and other homemade dough can also be used). This activity will work on hand strength,while providing your child with tactile input at the same time.
- Practice wearing least-preferred clothing for small increments of time and gradually build up the length of time (e.g. jeans and socks). A visual or auditory timer can be set to help identify when the time will be up.
- Wilbarger Brushing Protocol: Speak with your occupational therapist about how a brushing program may be implemented at home with your child. Brushing provides additional tactile input and stimulation to your child’s legs, arms, hands, feet and back. Brushing is always followed-up by joint compressions so that your child also receives proprioceptive input.
Overall, the goal of the above-listed therapeutic activities is to help your child better process a variety of tactile input as well as become less agitated and overwhelmed by typical sensory experiences. It is important to expose your child to these sensory experiences so that he/she has the opportunity to grow and learn within their environment as well as keep up with same aged peers (e.g. wearing age-appropriate clothing and participating in age-appropriate art projects). Be sure to consult with your occupational therapist to identify the best activities for your child in particular.