Originally published on Nov. 19, 2017.


So, in my last post I explained a little about how the tactile system is structured.

How do differences in the way your child processes touch sensation show up in their behaviour?

Your child's sensory processing tendency may be towards over-sensitivity to touch (also called hyper-sensitivity), or towards under-sensitivity (hypo-sensitivity). This post is about hypersensitivity. A difficulty in sensory processing may be apparent in a child's motor skills, and/or in their emotional and behavioural responses. There are many areas in which tactile difficulties might show up. Because my posts are more feeding-oriented in origin, I'll focus a little more on signs you might see in that area, this list is in no way exhaustive.

Over-sensitivity:

  • May eat a restricted diet, and especially restrictive with regards to food texture. Often 'stuck' on smooth foods. Especially finds lumpy textures difficult.
  • Dislikes having their hands messy. If they will get their hands messy, may ask to have their hands wiped quickly or frequently.
  • If they will join in with messy play, may only use the very tips of their fingers to explore.
  • May not mouth toys.
  • May be distracted by the visual appearance of foods- focussed on packaging, eating only particular brands, rejecting foods if they are presented differently, rejecting foods if sauce has touched them, or if foods have touched each other on the plate.
  • May be distracted by, or controlling about clothing textures- e.g. labels, long sleeves, seams.
  • May dislike having their shoes and socks off, or exploring with their feet, e.g. walking on sand or grass
  • May dislike having hands/face/hair/teeth brushed/washed etc.
  • May reject foods based on temperature
  • May react excessively to everyday events like being brushed up against
  • May exhibit responses to the above that you would consider out of all proportion- distress, anxiety, anger, silliness, controlling behaviour
  • May have poor fine motor, oral-motor and/or gross motor skills
  • Fearful or rejecting of being touched/hugged

If your child is showing these signs, they might benefit from working with a Speech and Language Therapist with the appropriate sensory training, and/or an appropriately trained Occupational Therapist.

Look out for posts about supporting children with over-sensitive tactile systems with their feeding, coming up soon.

Posts from Find the Key Speech Therapy are intended for information. They are not inetnded to, and cannot, take the place of advice from an appropriately qualified Speech and Language Therapist who knows your child. Find the Key Speech Therapy does not take responsibility for the use of any advice without appropriate professional guidance.