Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Tactile Sensitivity Resources

A friend asked me for resources on tactile sensitivity in small children. I wrote a response and then realized it would be useful to more people, so here it is. Much of this stuff will generalize to other sensory issues and to adults.

This is my post on touch aversion, with links to the rest of the series:

One of my toddler characters, Nathaniel (whose superpower name is Howl), has super-senses and sensory processing disorder. You can read about him in the Danso & Family thread of the Polychrome Heroics setting, beginning with "The Ones Who Would Do Anything." Later poems in the series -- and some fiction written by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer -- show Nathaniel's new family working out how to cope with his special needs.

Know the common signs of tactile sensitivity in small children.

There are ways to help tactile-sensitive children:

Sensory Processing Disorder is a complex condition.

Now the fun stuff: among the best ways to cope with tactile sensitivity are toys and games which introduce many interesting textures. You may need to start with low-intensity toys like a blue marble sealed in a bag of white rice, before moving to an open tub of rice and several hidden toys, then to fingerpaints.
Respect the Mess
SPD Store
Sensory Play
Sensory University
Sensory Activities
10 Sensory Play Ideas
List of Sensory Play Ideas
Pinterest Sensory Crafts
Pinterest Sensory Activities
Pinterest Sensory Toys

Coping Rule #1: Pay Attention
Observe how the child acts. How do things feel to them? How do they react when is happy or upset? What textures do they love or hate? You have to try new things; you don't have to keep doing things that hurt or don't work. Try something else instead.

Coping Rule #2: Communicate
Identify obstacles and challenges. Talk about textures. Give them names so the child can state likes or dislikes. Encourage them to tell when something is bothering them and why. Name emotions too. Explain why some things that are yucky are necessary anyway. Listen to your child and insist that they listen to you. Ignoring each other's needs will get you all nowhere. Listen to other people's input but do not feel compelled to take their advice, even if they're experts, if it points in a direction that you already know causes trouble for your family.

Coping Rule #3: Problem-solve and Adapt
Once you've identified what the obstacles and challenges are, try to find ways of addressing them. This means both reducing irritants that can be avoided (frex, if they hates wool, get rid of their wool clothes and replace with cotton), and building resilience by playing with textures and learning coping skills so that some things which bother them now may become tolerable later. Everyone has to help. Putting all the work on one person is neither fair nor effective.

Coping Rule #4: Use Force Sparingly
Forcing a child to do things they hate is miserable for everyone and does not teach good coping skills. Save it for things where you cannot think of an alternative and the action is a MUST -- frex, if you've tried all the cleaning options and they still hate bathing, you will all just have to grit your teeth through it. But don't fight over trivial things; you'll exhaust yourselves and make everyone's life horrid. Observe, communicate, and problem-solve FIRST. Every problem you solve prevents all the later fights that would have come from it!

Coping Rule #5: Compensatory Joys
Everyone's life has parts that suck. Part of growing up means learning what you hate and love, so that you can reward yourself after doing hard things. This goes for kids and parents alike. A child's reward might be a piece of candy, a new game, or an extra hour of television. A parent's reward might be an afternoon of babysitting! Especially look for collectibles that the child loves and you can dole out one at a time. For toddlers, sometimes you can find boxes of all different shaped blocks and give them one when they are being extra good or after they do something hard without fussing. Beanbags can be made cheaply with different fabrics and fillings. Plain square blocks may have textures glued, drilled, bolted, painted, or otherwise attached to them. Older kids may have cards, figurines, or other collectible toys/games -- there are lots of these now. Keep a stash of rewards in various sizes for different levels of accomplishment. Appreciate the good parts too -- sensitivity can be postitive as well as negative. A tactile-sensitive child may learn to do things nobody else can do, like feeling flaws in craft supplies to pick the best ones. Discover and capitalize on these joys!
Tags: education, family skills, how to, life lessons, safety

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