Just Stop Touching Everything
Just Stop Touching Everything. This is what I used to say to my daughter anytime we were in a store, at church, or anywhere else. She always had to be touching something. She would get warnings and then consequences because she just wouldnt stop touching.
In my mind, she was just disobeying me. Come to find out, in her mind, she NEEDED to touch everything. She CRAVED touching everything. This is how it is for my six year old sensory seeker.
Until about two months ago, I was not aware that touching things was what she neededI believed it was just what she wanted. Now that I have a better understanding of what she NEEDS, I am able to help her instead of get upset or force her to stop doing something her body needs.
Two months ago I was told my daughter has sensory processing disorder. Going into the evaluation I already knew in my heart this was the case, but it was such a relief to have someone confirm it, as well as come up with a plan for her.
We have done OT for about two months now and my daughter still touches thingsA LOT. It has gotten better, but there are times that she has not gotten enough sensory input in other ways, she will seek it out. She rocks, chews, touches, and does many other things to seek out the sensory input her body craves.
This post originally appeared on Jojos Blog. You can read more from Jojo there.
How To Help Those On The Autism Spectrum Who Have Touch Aversion
“Persons with autism may exhibit repeated body movements , unusual responses to people or attachments to objects and resistance to changes in routines. Individuals may also experience sensitivities in the five senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste.” Autism Society of Delaware, 2005
Here is an often too common scenario:
An NT mother has a child on the autism spectrum. The parent wants to show love to her child. But she has a secret. Her young one hits her, turns away from her, and does not want to even be close to her. The NT mother wonders, what is she doing wrong?
Or here’s another scenario:
Aspie guy meets NT girl. NT girl wants to show her affection to her boyfriend. She comes up behind him and gives him a hug. He stiffens and pushes her away. She is bewildered, confused, and sad. Why doesn’t he want her hug?
To all of you on the autism spectrum, I have a request: Please be patient with us. We have a lot to learn.
Fortunately, there is more and more information available about autism characteristics. One of these has to do with strong sensitivity to touch. And it’s not just touch. It can be light, sound, and smells.
But the focus of this article will be how many individuals with autism experience touch, some of the challenges with touch, and how both individuals with autism and individuals without can understand and relate to each other better in light of the facts.
Why the Difficulty with Touch?
Therapies And Supports To Improve Communication And Social Skills
Improved communication and social understanding can lead to lower anxiety and less challenging behaviour in autistic children and teenagers. There are many therapies and supports that might increase your childs skills in these areas, and help you manage your childs behaviour.
A good first step is talking with your childs GP, paediatrician or psychologist, or another health professional who works with your child. They can help you find appropriate therapies and supports for your child. Psychologists, speech pathologists and experienced Applied Behaviour Analysis practitioners can help you with behaviour management if the behaviour continues to be a problem or you need support to deal with it.
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Restricted Behavior And Play
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are often restricted, rigid, and even obsessive in their behaviors, activities, and interests. Symptoms may include:
- Repetitive body movements moving constantly.
- Obsessive attachment to unusual objects .
- Preoccupation with a narrow topic of interest, sometimes involving numbers or symbols .
- A strong need for sameness, order, and routines . Gets upset by change in their routine or environment.
- Clumsiness, atypical posture, or odd ways of moving.
- Fascinated by spinning objects, moving pieces, or parts of toys .
- Hyper- or hypo-reactive to sensory input .
Sensory Integration A Theory Behind Tactile Defensiveness
Jean Ayres thought tactile hypersensitivity occurs because the brain pays too much attention to light touch and protective sensations from the skin. Instead of listening to the extra information available from the discriminative pathway, the brain keeps paying attention to the light touch and protective sensations. These sensations are designed to alert the body to a problem or threat. They are designed to keep the body safe.
Each time the brain receives a message from these pathways it initially thinks that something might be wrong. It gets ready to protect the body. This is called a fight, flight or freeze response. Jean Ayres thought that the brains of children and adults with tactile defensiveness interpret ordinary touch sensations, such as clothing textures or hugs, as a threat. Their brains pay more attention to light touch sensations than the brains of children without touch sensitivity.
This helps to explain the behaviours that are seen in children or adults with tactile defensiveness. Their responses to everyday touch can often result in meltdowns, arguments and avoidance. This is because their brains are feeling that touch in the same way you might if you touched something hot or ran into a spider web. The everyday touch activates their brains protective system and triggers a fight, flight or freeze response. Some adults with touch hypersensitivity have also reported that certain everyday touch sensations feel painful.
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How To Do Deep Pressure Therapy At Home
Deep Touch Pressure Therapy is generally carried out by occupational therapists. However, there are ways that you can implement DTP therapy at home.
Deep pressure therapy for autism is an option. But before getting started, it is important to do research and look into if this is a good option for you. DTP carries almost no risk and it is not expensive. There are many reports of improvement and benefits for people with autism or related sensory issues.
Ideally, an occupational therapist with sensory integration training and expertise in the field would be evaluating and treating your child. Although occupational therapy can be provided through schools free of charge to parents, not all of these therapists are trained in sensory integration and deep touch therapy.
If you are not able to find or afford an occupational therapist experienced in sensory integration, there are some Deep Touch Therapy methods you can introduce to your childs routine at home.
Here are some items for deep pressure therapy, as well as DTP products and activities you can try at home:
Autism Treatment At Spectrum Of Hope
Treatment for autism can help individuals on the spectrum learn social skills which aid them in expressing their emotions, understanding the emotions of others, and communicating their wants and needs. It can also give parents valuable insight and perspective on how autism presents in their child, along with proven behavioral strategies for interacting with their child to aid their development.
Spectrum of Hope has over a decade of experience in treating individuals with autism of all ages. Located in the greater Houston area, the team at Spectrum of Hope will work with you and your child to address their social and developmental challenges, build communication and life skills, and set your child up to thrive across all aspects of life. Please give us a call today at 894-1423.
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Ten Common Signs Of Tactile Sensitivity
People with autism spectrum disorders and cognitive disabilities often experience varying degrees of tactile sensitivity. Parents should be aware of the ways a very young child might react when he is overwhelmed by sensory overload because it will probably manifest itself with behavior problems or meltdowns. This is his only way of communicating his tactile sensitivity. The individuals I know who have tactile sensitivities likened their unpleasant feeling to the way some people cringe at the sound of a fingernail scratching a blackboard. I have a granddaughter with tactile sensitivities therefore I know how difficult it is for parents of a young child with the same issues. Some parents say they live in the Land of TOO too hot, too cold, too bright, too tight, too hard, too rough, etc. These are some of the common signs of tactile sensitivity parents can see in their child. Each child may be different and the severity of the reactions will vary.
- 1- They dislike clothing, shoes, hats, mittens. They complain about the tags, the fastening, the type of fabric, the style, etc.
- 2- They hate to have their hair combed, washed, or cut.
- 3- They are the children who do not want to get their hands dirty or do not want to touch many things because it feels unpleasant. They rush to wash or wipe their hands making it difficult to finish what they are trying to do. Messy art classes are awful for them.
- 4- Some toddlers refuse to be held or touched.
What To Do In Private
Touch yourself. It’s OK to touch your private parts when you are alone in the bathroom or your bedroom with the door closed. Ejaculations and wet dreams happen in private. Do not touch your private parts when in public. Public places are where other people are around, like a classroom, restaurant, or playground.
Your mom or dad or doctor may need to check your private area to keep it clean and healthy. No one else should touch your private area, and you should never touch another person’s private area. If anyone ever touches your private area in a way that makes you feel bad, say “No!” and tell your mom, dad, or other trusted adult.
When you are older and ready to have a girlfriend or boyfriend, talk to a parent, doctor, or other trusted adult to learn about sex and healthy relationships.
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Personal Boundaries And Bodies: Unwanted Touch
Some autistic children dont like physical contact, and thats OK. Its good if they have the ability to express it appropriately.
Along with good and bad touch, you can also teach your child about unwanted touch. For example, if your child doesnt want a hug from a relative, your child can learn polite ways to say no. These might include just saying No thank you, holding their hand out to shake instead, or holding their hand up for a high-five.
If youre worried about offending family and friends, let them know that youre teaching your child basic personal safety skills, including what to do about unwanted touch.
Personal boundaries, good touch and bad touch are important personal safety skills for autistic children. You can help your autistic child learn these skills by doing a circle of friends activity. A circle of friends is a picture that shows your child and the different people in their life.
The Importance Of The Autism Caregiver
Caregivers also need to understand how important they are. Both Berman and Shore give a lot of credit to their parents for their tenacity and dedication. In the early 1960s, experts told Shoreâs parents that their sonâs autism symptoms were so severe that his case was hopeless and he needed to be institutionalized. But his parents defied the experts and kept fighting, and they were right.
McGreevy is a passionate advocate for her son too. While she tries to accommodate his autism symptoms and keep a home environment in which he feels safe, sheâs also working constantly to expand his horizons. âI think because of his condition, my son would be fine being stagnant,â she tells WebMD. âIf heâs going to experience new things and grow and take the next step, I need to push him.â
For a caregiver, empathy is key. Just forcing a person with autism into the âreal worldâ wonât work. Instead, the first step is to try to understand their perspective a little better.
âAs a parent or caregiver, you need to go into the world of the person with autism first,â says Shore. âThen you can start guiding that person out.â
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Touch Sensitivity 1 Hour Online Course
If you want to learn even more, you join our special course on touch sensitivity. This online course will teach why the touch sense responds they way does. This will help you to understand what you can do to support your child. There are quick tips and specific strategies. In just one hour, Kim will teach you how to help your childs touch sensitivity. The videos 5-10 minutes, you can watch at your own pace and in your own time. You will have 12 months access to the content.
What Is Deep Pressure Therapy
In 1992, Dr. Temple Grandin who is a high-functioning autistic wrote a paper about her squeeze machine. When she hit puberty, she felt anxiety and nervousness. She states in her paper that she felt like she was in a constant state of stage fright.
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She was later retrospectively diagnosed with panic attacks according to DSM-III-R criteria. When she turned 18, she constructed a machine she called squeeze machine. This was to help her calm down the anxiety and panic attacks.
She realized that using the machine for 15 minutes would reduce her anxiety for a period of time. When she used it twice a day, the effect was maximized.
This device essentially delivered a deep touch pressure that helped her learn to tolerate touching. In turn, her anxiety and nervousness were reduced. Clinical studies showed that this deep touch pressure was found to be beneficial for both children with autism and sensory processing disorder.
This squeeze machine was one of the first scientifically evaluated techniques for applying deep touch therapy. Through this, many individuals with autism found relief and a sense of calm.
As we mentioned before, deep touch pressure is a form of tactile sensory information. This firm tactile sensory input provides proprioceptive input to the entire body. Proprioceptive input can be achieved through firm strokings, hugging, squeezing, compression, or swaddling.
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How Will I Feel
Puberty might cause strong emotions, like feeling angry. You may have other feelings too:
- You might feel happy one minute and sad the next.
- You might think another person is cute, and like them a lot.
- You might feel like touching yourself in a private area.
These feelings are normal and part of growing up.
Why Do Asd Children Hit
For autistic children, aggressive behavior is a physical way of communicating when they cannot express their feelings in words. If they feel frustrated, upset, hungry or tired, their emotional state has a direct impact on their conduct.
This is why children react aggressively towards their parents or even siblings.
Aggressive behaviors are common and normal during early infancy, especially if your child has communicational challenges. The best way for you, as a parent, to deal with these situations is to understand what your child is going through and offer the support they need to express their emotions properly.
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Public Vs Private Body Parts
Its important for autistic children to understand the difference between public and private parts of the body. This helps children understand whats OK to do in private but not in public.
You might want to start with the idea of naked versus clothed.
Bath time is an ideal time to do this. It gives you the chance to talk about when its OK to be naked and when you need to wear clothes. For example, Its OK to be naked in the bath or shower, or I have to wear clothes when I come out of my room. You could also use dolls or pictures to help.
You could also make a list with your child of when its OK to be naked in front of other people, or when its OK to see other people naked for example, when your child is getting changed for swimming. This might be a written list, or pictures of places like the changing room.
You can also talk about what things are OK to do in public, and what you should do in private. For example, When I go to the toilet, I should shut the door.
Visual schedules can help with this. For example, you might have pictures of your child walking into the toilet, closing the door, using the toilet, washing their hands, and finally opening the door again and leaving. Its a good idea to keep the schedule in a place thats easy for your child to see, like next to the bathroom sink.
What Do You Say When Someone Touches Your Child
What This Looks Like: Say, Please dont touch my child without asking, or, They dont like it when people touch them. Why It Works: Straight and to the point, this one pulls no punches. If someone touches your child, whether its to feel their hair, give them a hug, or tickle them, you have a right to tell that person to back off.