2011年12月4日 星期日

Sensory Integration Problems - Touch Sensitivity

Is your child jumpy when his face is touched? Is he insistent that your remove all the tags from all his clothes? Is he wary of touching things that he thinks feel slimy or rough? Is he in favor of particular fabrics and has an aversion in wearing others? Are his feet really sensitive? Does he find regular tasks such as getting his hair brushed to be painful?

If this is the case then your child could be a patient of touch sensitivity. This is one of the many sensory integration problems that can occur in children, and is medically referred to as 'tactile defensiveness'.

You should know that touch plays an essential role in the social and emotional development of children and it allows them to build on their existing relationships and also helps them make new connections. This is the function that connects a mother with her newborn, and a husband with his wife.

Another function that touch plays is that of being a warning system and a pain indicator. It is owing to this function that our brain registers pain. Events that are painful can warn us of what's to follow, often requiring us to make decisions quickly to avoid further harm.

However, there are instances when touch sensations are wrongly registered by the brain due to abnormalities in a child's tactile sensory system. A child, in such a scenario, could end up feeling threatened by a touch sensation that might otherwise be viewed as harmless. If your child has extreme reactions in seemingly harmless instances, he could suffer from touch sensitivity.

If your child does have this condition then it is very important that he gets the right kind of care and attention. A physical sensation that you think to be gentle can be seen as a threat by your child. Touch sensitive patients are known to perceive sensation relating to touch quite differently from the way you or I would.

A seemingly smooth sensation could be the cause of immense pain to your child. This would have an adverse effect on his behavior as well. For example, while someone might accidentally brush past your child in a crowded place, your child could view this as a threat, and react in a manner that others around him would deem inappropriate and extreme. Your child, at this point, could want to scream, run away, etc.

This is a sensory integration disorder that doesn't have to affect the learning abilities of your child, but it will affect his resultant reactions. This can make your child act defensively at most times, and this can lead him to feeling insecure as well as distractible.

This is one of many factors that help distinguish between ADHD and this condition. While sustaining attention can be a problem with an ADHD patient, distracting him is not necessarily easy. If you were to subject an ADHD child to weak stimuli while he is engrossed in an activity, the chances are he would have a very weak reaction. A touch sensitive child, on the contrary, is likely to have an extreme reaction in the same situation.

If you want to get an inkling of what a touch sensitive child goes through, imagine being subjected to a long session of someone scratching a backboard with his fingernails, or imagine the pain and irritability your feel when you accidentally cut your nails too short. A hug that could otherwise seem very gentle could have an effect that is similar to these on a touch sensitive child.

However, while your pain wouldn't stick around for long, a touch sensitive child wouldn't be as lucky.

A touch sensitive child could want to refrain from wearing woolens because they feel rough on his skin. Somebody accidentally bumping into him could produce strong reactions. His concentration levels in class could suffer because the air conditioning vent blows air on his head. He could be wary of meeting new people and making friends because of his fear that people will continuously bump into him.

When an adult suffers from tactile defensiveness, it can have an adverse effect on the sufferer's married life. A tactile defensiveness patient could view even the most harmless of touch sensations as threats, and this can also include scenarios and circumstances which require some form of bodily contact. A complete aversion to being touched can lead to considerable discord in a marriage.

The Signs:

When you are looking for symptoms of this condition in your child, here's what you should look for.

*Extreme reactions in circumstances that appear to be quite normal.

*Getting distracted very easily by a touch sensation that seems to be normal.

*Having an overall aversion to being touched.

*Asking you to remove all tags from all his clothing.

*Liking particular fabrics and disliking others.

*Losing his temper in activities that are done regularly. For example, when he is getting a haircut, when he is being given a bath, etc.

*When he shows a liking for particular touch sensations such as firm pressure, rocking etc. which he finds relieving.

Regions such as the tongue, mouth, soles, and palms of children who suffer from this condition can be highly sensitive.

Conditions Which Can Coexist:

Dealing with this condition is not very easy. While it can occur singularly, a child can also have this condition along with another at the same time. Other conditions which can also affect your child along with tactile defensiveness are:

*Digestive disorders

*Sleep disorders

*Problems concerning hand eye coordination

*Difficulties in motor coordination

*Difficulties in motor planning


*Persistent ear infections

*Speech & language delays

*Bed wetting

Then there are conditions where one of the components of the condition is tactile defensiveness. These comprise of:



*Asperger's Syndrome

*Fragile X

*Bipolar Disorder



*Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

*Selective Mutism

*Down Syndrome

*Learning Disabilities

The Premise:

As in a majority of the complex neurological conditions, not much is known in reference to what causes different sensory integration disorders. In circumstances when the medical fraternity remains in the dark about the cause of a condition, the cause if referred to as being 'idiopathic'; a nice way of saying we haven't got a clue.

When the scientific community has a problem in identifying the root cause of any occurrence, it bothers them. So they come up with hypotheses. This case, has led to quite a few theories being put on the table. Five hypotheses have already been released, and the last of these implies that the cause of this condition is related to an irregularity in the sufferer's cerebellum.

While a theory or two do have some substance, the latest findings still continue to tell us that the cause surrounding this condition is still mainly idiopathic.

The Next Step:

Since this condition is basically a sensory motor interaction deficit, developing the sufferer's sensory integration should be the main focus of any treatment. Attempts should also be made to bring about some kind of a normalcy in the sufferer's sensory integration and motor planning. In order to accomplish this, a positive change needs to be brought about in the sufferer's nervous system's capacity to record and understand different touch sensations.

A professional therapist must be consulted for treatment, and if you think that there is a possibility that your child might have this condition; then a thorough diagnosis is called for. This should be carried out by a trained professional who specializes in dealing with problems pertaining to sensory integration.

The best way to go about this is to first get in touch with your pediatrician. He would then refer the case to an appropriate therapist who would then be responsible for diagnosing your child's condition and treating it. The therapist would work by developing a treatment plan based on his findings, and he would also give you tips on how you can help.


Bear in mind that this is one of many other types of sensory motor integration deficits which are known to affect children, and it can also occur in conjunction with conditions such as Bipolar Disorder and ADHD.

And while exact figures pertaining to sensory integration disorders are still not in place, we do know that this condition is quite widespread. Also, while this condition can have quite a negative impact on your child, you should know that he can be helped.

If you have the slightest feeling that your child suffers from touch sensitivity, then taking him to a therapist who deals with sensory integration disorders and trained motor planning because an evaluation should be your first priority.

Anthony Kane, MD is a physician and international lecturer who has been helping parents of children with ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder online since 2003. Get help with Oppositional Defiant Disorder child behavior help with defiant teens ADHD treatment and ADHD.

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