Over the next week or so I am going to explore the 7 different types of sensory-driven behaviour that children (and adults!) on the spectrum can display.

Let me preface this beginning by saying that every child on the spectrum has their own unique set of sensory preferences. What might feel good for one child, may not feel nice at all for another. Stimulating one sensory type may have a calming or alerting effect; and individuals may seek or avoid them. If someone is described as being “defensive” towards a sense it means they do not like having that sense stimulated and if it does in excess, this can lead to meltdown. Individuals may seek and avoid stimuli at the same time. It is also possible for an individual to be what is called “hypersensitive” which means they are overly sensitive to some sensory inputs as well as being “hyposensitive” meaning under-reactive to others. 

Knowing your child’s sensory preferences is the key to enabling them to learn to independently self-regulate (that is: calm themselves when overstimulated or alert themselves when they’re under stimulated and need rousing). If you don’t know your child’s sensory preferences yourself it can be really worthwhile accessing the advice of an Occupational Therapist and having a Sensory Profile done.

I’ve been asked by many readers to explore and share suggestions for the different senses. So I’m going to break it down here.

*These are just my opinions as a parent of special needs children, and I am in no way affiliated with any of the items I link – I’m purely sharing them because I think they’re great. *

 

Part 1: Tactile.

This is the touching sense.

People who seek this sensory input may like to rub or touch certain textiles and they may love and can crave messy all-over-body play.  They may be constantly putting their fingers into things (I think I even found Sno rubbing hand soap between her hands and also poking holes in muffins) and be all Fingers McGee and need reminding to keep their hands to themselves when shopping. Using a fidget toy can come in handy during these situations too. Tactile seekers love to immerse themselves in different textures and enjoy messy play. They may pick fingers, skin or other areas on their body if they aren’t provided with a more appropriate alternative. They may feel small amounts of pain acutely or they may not seem to feel pain at all. 

 

People who avoid this type of sensory input may avoid certain fabrics including clothing, tags and even other types of tactile stimulation like play dough, kinetic sand, mess, muddy play or even bathing or showering. They may also avoid being touched and especially cannot stand light touching. People who are sensitive to tactile input may also really struggle with temperature changes: coming in and out of the shower, going in and out of a pool, really hot days and also they may not even feel the cold too and require being reminded to wear weather appropriate clothing. It is common for tactile-defensive people to also hate doing the dishes (ahem husband) and also they may prefer to wear clothing rolled up so it doesn’t restrict their movement.

 

Some ideas for tactile seekers are: soft coral-fleece material on clothes or on a blanket to snuggle, cloud-dough made with corn flour & conditioner, sensory bins made with rice or beans and scoops, silly putty, science putty, Theraputty, washable paints to be used on hands and feet, stretchy fidgets to keep at school and cool large crystals to hold and keep in pockets. Threading with pipe cleaners and beads. Using play dough with glitter, sequins, buttons, pasta, shells, stones. Getting your tactile-seeking child involved in cooking is also a great idea as it will teach them many other skills whilst indulging their love for getting their hands into things. Gardening is also a brilliantly tactile-stimulating thing; so encourage your child to get outside and filthy with you and reap the benefits of growing something themselves. And let’s not forget Lego!

Lego FTW

Lego FTW

Ideas for tactile avoiders: seamless clothing, natural fibres only in clothing (man-made fabrics often cause sweating and more discomfort), bamboo clothing is great too as it is light and breathes. Easy unrestricted accessibility to utensils when eating along with damp washers for wiping when eating and doing craft and messy play.

 

Stay tuned for the next sensory area to be explored..