Updated: Dec 16, 2021
Our sense of touch informs us of our environment and surroundings. Receptors keep us safe informing us of changes in temperature, pain, pressure and vibration.
There is also social, emotional and physical touch that are necessary for our well-being.
Some individuals may be over-sensitive to touch making it uncomfortable for them making them being 'touch defensive'.
Other individuals with an under-active sensory system may not be receiving enough information so may seek pressure and require increased stimulation.
For individuals with special educational needs and disabilities, their everyday lives often results in them being bombarded with different stimuli and this sensory overload can cause them to employ a coping mechanism such as 'switching off'
By working on the sense of touch alone we can help the individual to tune into their sense of touch and make more sense of the world around them.
Ideas to stimulate the sense of touch
Explore items that provide good sensory feedback with a range of textures: bristly, bobbled, bubbly, bumpy, bushy, carved, chunky, coarse, cold, corrugated, carved, chunky, coarse, cold, damp, distended, downy, dry, elastic, enemalled, engraved, etched, flat, feathery, flaky, fleecy, fluffy, foamy, frothy, furled, furry, gravelly, gritty, grainy, glossy, gooey, grooved, hard, hairy, icy, indented, knitted, knobbly, limp, malleable, matte, metallic, moist, mosaic, mushy, padded, patterned, pitted, plastic, pleated, pliable, pointed, polished, prickly, puffy, ribbed, ridged, rough, rubbery, runny, sandy, shaped, shiny, silky, sleek, slimy, slippery, smooth, smudged, soapy, soft, spongy, springy, stiff, stodgy, stubby, syrupy, tickly, tingly, tweedy, viscous, velvety, warm, wet wooden, woolly, woven.
Explore hand fidget toys, blanket wrap, massage with or without creams and the use of body brushes.
Arts & crafts are excellent tactile activities, explore paints, glitter glues, foamy soap/shaving cream, clay, sand, wood shavings, shredded paper, water, playdoh and different textured fabrics and material. Baking is very tactile, make dough, pastry, cake mix, batter mix, Explore dried foods such as lentils, pasta, pulses and rice.
Tip! if the individual is touch sensitive, s/he could wear lightweight gloves or explore via a paintbrush to create a barrier.
Sensory or feely bags are a cheap and fun way to engage the sense of touch and to develop language skills providing sensory feedback.
1. Choose a non see-through bag that is tactile and catches the eye.
2. Place the props used in the story into the story bag.
3. Give the bag a gentle shake to gain the sensory explorer's attention.
4. Invite the sensory explorer to place their hand in the bag and select an item. Encourage the explorer to use their sense of touch to guess what the item is? (If the explorer is struggling then provide plenty of clues.)
5. Allow the explorer time to investigate the item and process the information then shake your bag again for them to select another item.
Sensory bag activities provide an excellent base for building functional language skills.
Ask the sensory explorer to tell you or show you what you might do with the item and where you might find it. (If the explorer is unsure model how to use the item.)
Keep language simple. Focus on phrases such as 'Choose' when offering the bag to the explorer to select an item, the name of the object e.g. banana, sponge, flower.
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