Like all health concerns or disorders, there is a spectrum to tactile sensory disorder from mild to severe. And it can evolve over time as kids grow up. In fact, I remember some fairly traumatizing moments as a child fighting against certain clothes, socks, or foods. Even into my teen years I have memories of being stuck in shocking moments of eating food at a friend’s house that felt repulsive in my mouth.
Now as an adult, I can cope better with these odd sensations that are common for people with tactile defensiveness.
While I am not an OT, PT, or doctor, I have done extensive research on Tactile Defensiveness to help understand it and advocate for myself. In turn it’s helped my husband, my children, and my parents. You will find my references for this post at the bottom of the article; this post is not intended to diagnose, treat, or otherwise replace advice from your family’s health providers.
What is Tactile Sensory Disorder?
It is a hypersensitivity to certain touches and textures and an avoidance of such stimuli in most cases. Many times there is a feeling of being trapped by a sensation without a reasonable way out or away from it.
Tactile Defensiveness can affect children and adults alike and dislike of certain sensations may diminish in intensity over time… or they may not. There is research indicating that many times children that have tactile defensiveness grow that there is a link to anxiety in adulthood.
What are the symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder?
- Heightened anxiety in crowded spaces.
- Dislikes feeling of certain fabrics.
- Prefers deep pressure over light touches.
- Intolerance to tickling.
- Dislikes socks, especially the inseam and continually readjusts the socks to find the perfect position. Also can be easily irritated the feeling of clothing tags or other parts inside of clothes.
- Difficulty with wearing shoes or certain fits of clothing whether loose or tight.
- Avoidance of or overreaction to messy textures such as finger paint, glue, and play-dough, slime, kinetic sand, regular sand, etc..
- Fussiness with food textures, including avoidance of mixed textures or foods with some bumps, lumps, or crunch.
- Dislikes hugs and/or kisses as it feels like they are “stuck” on them.
- Challenges with certain grooming habits like haircuts, combing, brushing teeth, trimming nails, etc..
Can A child have sensory processing disorder and not have autism? Yes. They are distinctly different. However, many children with autism also have SPD and need help with regulation because of external stimuli.
- Ayres, A.J. (1972). Sensory Integration and Learning Disorders.
- Baranek, G. (1997) American Journal of Occupational Therapy. Vol. 51, 91-95.
- Kinnealey, M. (1999) Occupational Therapy International. 6(3), 195–206.
- Lane, S. (2002). Chapter 4 Sensory Modulation in Sensory Integration Theory and Practice 2nd Edition by Bundy, Murry & Lane.
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!