When touching hurts

2009-10-30 00:00

IF your child is a loner or if he or she is clumpsy then the child may need a therapist’s help.

When children’s physical development is in place and the child has a positive sense of self and finds it easy to make friends, they should learn and play with ease. But what if the following words appear on a therapist’s report?

Tactile defensive

Tactile refers to the sense of touch. Tactile defensive means that the skin is hyper sensitive to different surfaces.

The entire body is covered by touch receptors, which are also found at the roots of hair. Through touch and the movement of the hair on the skin, information travels from the skin to the brain and is instrumental in creating a feeling of safety and security, balance, spatial orientation and movement if the near senses filtered it properly.

A tactile-defensive child may have poor near-sensory filtering system resulting in the skin being on hyper alert to fulfil its protective response. An overly protective defence system leads to tactile defensiveness and instead of finding touch comforting, nuturing and a source of communication, touch is perceived as a threat and the child instantly withdraws.

The child may also find touch painful and get overwhelmed by the stimulation. As a result tactile discrimination is underutilised, impairing hands-on learning, exploration and kinesthetic learning, and development in general is slower.

Problems with tactile defensiveness can be observed when a child:

• dislikes touch, hugs, kisses and people standing behind him or her;

• dislikes messy activities, dirty hands and cleaning activities;

• is very ticklish;

• avoids walking barefoot;

• might cry when taken to swimming lessons;

• dislikes visiting the doctor, dentist or hairdresser;

• appears irritable and often pushes other children away quite aggressively;

• seems to overact to soft bumps and scratches;

• tends to isolate himself or herself from others;

• refuses to wear certain clothes;

• has allergic skin reactions; and

• is a picky eater.

Tactile dormant

This means that the near-sensory filtering system filters out so much information that too little tactile information reaches the brain or that the intensity is too low.

This may lead to an inability to determine where the body is being touched and the child suffers from insensitivity to pain and temperature.

Where the tactile-defensive child finds too much touch painful, the tactile-dormant child seems to be insensitive to touch.

Problems when a child is tactile dormant can be observed when a child:

• has poor body awareness;

• can’t identify body parts;

• has poor spatial awareness;

• has low muscle tone;

• has poorly developed fine motor skills;

• doesn’t seem to get hurt when he hurts himself or herself quite badly;

• plays rougher than most;

• doesn’t respond emotionally;

• is a loner;

• seeks physical contact;

• hugs very hard;

• has poor balance and motor skills;

• is clumsy;

• lacks directionality; and • finds it difficult to establish dominance­ due to a low level of awareness. — Parent24.


— Extracted from Mind Moves — Moves that Mend the Mind, which is available from the Mind Moves Institute, at 011 888 5434 or www.mind moves.co.za

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