Touch Sensitivity (Tactile Defensiveness): When Clothes Hurt
Children and adults with touch sensitivity (tactile defensiveness) struggle to find clothes that are comfortable. It creates significant problems, especially when school or work dictate you have to wear something other than sweatpants and baggy sweatshirts. School uniforms? Dress shoes? Nylons? Ties? Button up shirts?
One Mom writes in...
"I have 10 year old triplets; two girls and a boy. Both girls have
auditory processing disorders and one also has SPD. She has extreme
tactile defensiveness, especially regarding clothing. The kids are
required to wear uniforms to school, including polo shirts with
collars. She cries every morning and she is probably very distracted
in school because of the shirt.
Any advice? Any suggestions as to where I can purchase extra soft
clothing? Thank you very much."
So... what DO you do when you are tactile defensive / touch
sensitive and your clothes hurt?
Ideally, I would recommend getting an OT evaluation and/or back into
therapy... since it is severely affecting her daily life. I assume,
since she was diagnosed with SPD, she was in OT at one time? (If you
are reading this and have not been diagnosed yet, but suspect you have
tactile defensiveness or SPD, you can
find out here
). One of the most effective treatments for tactile
defensiveness can be found in OT... the Wilbarger Brushing
Protocol (which they are now referring to as
DPPT-- Deep Pressure and Proprioceptive Technique
). This protocol, however, needs to be taught
by an experienced/trained professional and monitored by them as well.
It has truly made huge differences in hundreds (? thousands) of
individuals' abilities to tolerate touch. To learn more about who can
do/use this protocol on children, read "The
Wilbarger Brushing Protocol; Who Can Do It
Meanwhile, until OT begins, there are things you can do to help.
, use TONS of fabric softener!! Wash and rewash and rewash as
many times as you can with a lot of liquid fabric softener... soak them
for days or multiple times if need be. This is a "magic pill" for
, is to buy clothes (even school uniforms) at a consignment shop
or used clothing store; where they may have been worn and washed many
times, naturally making them softer.
, have her do firm rub downs during and after her shower/bath.
Start with lotion, move to baby washcloths, then rougher washcloths and
towels, to scrubbies and loofahs as she increases her tolerance and
decreases her touch sensitivity / defensiveness. But, make sure it is
done consistently and as often as possible- working up to several times
a day, if possible.
, give her some deep pressure lotion massages to her arms, legs,
hands, neck, back, and feet (avoid the stomach). Use firm, even
, sew some very soft material (same color) of the inside of the
shirt on the collar and seams of the shirt. Have her feel different
materials at the store and decide which one feels best. (We did this
for a the waistband of a pair of jeans for my daughter... she chose a
silky material, and it worked!!)
The last thing
you can try is a tight fitting lycra / spandex undershirt
or a "compression shirt" underneath her shirt to give her some calming
deep pressure input and keep the "itchy" shirt off her skin directly.
Although accommodations are a good idea and usually necessary, they are a temporary fix.
Therefore, I do encourage OT treatment to address and change the
underlying touch sensitivity (tactile defensiveness)
Related Resources And Further Reading
- Can't stand the feel of your socks? Does your child refuse to get dressed or keep his socks on, then try seamless socks!
Tactile Overresponsivity (Tactile Defensiveness)
- A description, signs and symptoms, effects of, and ways to provide tactile stimulation that will help your child tolerate this type of input.
- An in-depth article defining proprioceptive dysfunction; signs and symptoms to help you understand the REAL reason your child may not be able to learn new motor tasks or has a high energy level.
Sensory Processing Disorder Checklist
- comprehensive SPD Checklist; signs and symptoms of tactile, auditory, olfactory and oral defensiveness, as well as proprioceptive and vestibular dysfunction.
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