Tactile (Touch)

The tactile system is responsible for the body’s ability to perceive pressure, temperature, traction, and pain using receptors in the skin. Children with tactile processing issues may have an unusually high or low pain threshold and be very particular about the texture of their clothing, toys, and other surfaces.

Tactile seekers may:

  • Seek of frequent or prolonged physical contact with others.
  • Constantly touch or fiddle with various objects and surfaces.
  • Prefer tight, thick, or textured clothing.
  • Have a high pain threshold and not notice minor injuries.

Support seekers by:

  • Encouraging the use of fidget spinners, stress balls, and textured toys.
  • Encouraging play with sand, water, and sensory tables.
  • Providing a wide array of textures in toys, décor, and clothing.
  • Being conscious of your child’s high pain threshold and encouraging safe play.

Tactile avoiders may:

  • Dislike being touched, hugged, or kissed, even by parents.
  • Refuse to wear tight, scratchy, or “uncomfortable” clothing with seams or tags.
  • Dislike being messy or dirty and avoid playing in sand, dirt, or grass.
  • Dislike their hair or skin being wet and actively avoid swimming or bathing.
  • Avoid crowds and worry about being touched or bumped while playing.
  • Have a low pain threshold and cry or shout when brushing teeth or hair.

Support avoiders by:

  • Advising family and friends that physical contact is not desired.
  • Buying soft, loose fitting clothing.
  • Removing tags from clothing and turning uncomfortable items inside out.
  • Encourage using gloves or tools when engaging with unpleasant textures.
  • Introducing new textures slowly.

Tactile discrimination challenges may cause a child to:

  • Have difficulty distinguishing objects by feel.
  • Have difficulty gauging the temperature of objects or food.
  • Have difficulty performing tasks without looking, such as buttoning clothing or pedaling a bike.

Support discrimination challenges by:

  • Playing games that help your child identify objects by feel. Place a few household items in a “mystery bag” and have your child name the items without pulling them out of the bag. Once you see progress, add several groups of related items to the bag, such as school supplies or utensils, and have your child search for and identify related items.