Tolerating Touch

Adapted from Sternberg-White, S., Chen, D., Watts, J., 1992 | Developing Social-Emotional Skills, INSITE, Utah State University, Logan, Utah

Some children with dual sensory impairments may not like to be touched with certain textures or on certain parts of their bodies. This is called "tactile defensiveness". This sensitivity frequently involves the hands and/or face. It is important to assist the child in tolerating touch and textures for purposes of eating a variety of foods, exploring the environment, and for general learning. There are several ways to encourage the child to explore new textures. This process must be approached gradually, in a step-by-step fashion.

  1. Begin with textures that are dry, moving to moist, to wet, and eventually to sticky textures. Present the textures to parts of the body, which are not very sensitive (e.g., bony areas, areas not covered by hair, such as elbows, shoulders, and knees). These areas of the body may tolerate the textures first. Present the texture to the back of the hands before the palms.
  2. Make the activities part of a fun time. You can do this at bath time where the texture can be washed off quickly. The child may try to wipe the texture off himself, thereby getting a little on his hands. This will help him get used to the texture.
  3. See Fact Sheets on Encouraging Exploration and Developing Independence. The earlier you begin this process, the more confident the child will be in accepting and exploring the environment.