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Tactile Defensiveness Activities

Parents suggest sensory integration activities for children with tactile defensiveness.

I used a large Tupperware container and colored the rice and put small toys in and my daughter would look for them. (Linda Standiford)

We used pudding and cool whip for finger-painting. I also got a plastic dish tub and filled it with various things such as rice, pinto beans, popcorn etc.. and we let him fill and dump with cups, bowls and spoons. I also let him use matchbox cars and action figures in there. I also have recipes for stuff called gak, goop, playdough that definitely had interesting textures. (Arla Vavra)

You can put hair gel (DEP) in a gallon-size zip-lock baggie adding strong tape across the zip lock. Put enough gel so that the bag can lay flat. He can poke at it with his finger or feel the squishiness of the bag. A. (now 11) would draw pictures and letters on it with his finger when he was five to seven years. You can also do bags with different colors. (Dale Lips)

I try to plan A.'s day with SI in mind. For example, he snuggles on a big pillow in front of a heater in the morning when he is waking up. Sometimes I warm his clothes in the dryer right before he puts them on. He uses an electric toothbrush. During the day at school, the teachers have been asked to provide proprioceptive activities at least every hour -- erasing the blackboard, carrying heavy books, taking a short walk. When he comes home, I make sure he immediately has unstructured time. He usually goes in the backyard and plays for at least half an hour. Then he goes on a bike ride or walk. Idea -- he still loves to ride on a big wheel which gives him a lot of proprioceptive feedback. He also has always enjoyed pushing a cart on the sidewalk. Then by dinner time he is pretty tired. Ideally, he relaxes in the bathtub while I get dinner on -- does a lot of running the water, draining some and then running some more (one of his narrow, compulsive activities that some "experts" advise against and some say he obviously needs).(Dale Lips)

Our OT is a big fan of vibrating toys, like Bumble Balls, back vibrators (they make one in the shape of Garfield), etc. (Bethe Danon)

Walking on the grass and crawling on the beach were great exploration activities. A sand box and swing are wonderful in the back yard. I made playdough when he was younger and then used theraputty when his grip was stronger. I would hide pennies (he didn't put things into his mouth at that stage) and we would pull on the putty. He was a really messy eater - fingers in everything, throwing, and so on - so he provided his own tactile play, in a way. When using a towel after bath, especially on his head, we found that a quick and strong embrace worked best. I also held him on my lap a lot, especially for finger play, songs and reading books together. (Allison Martin)

We used salt trays at one school I taught at. If you use enough, you can hide little things in it. (Suzi Gillen)

The two things that seemed to help K. the most were glue, both colored and white. Just squeezing it on paper (good for finger strength, also) and smearing it around. It took a while, but I would make a big deal about how neat it was, and fun, to let it dry on the fingers and peel it off. Once I got her to do it, it made a big difference with other things, too (although her problem was mild, and now very slight at all). The other thing was getting her to find objects in a bowl of rice and/or beans. (Kathy Stanina)

Sometimes when Katie's hands had something on them (glue, paint or even food at meal time) she would want to wash it off right away. I would distract her, making her wait to wash her hands for just a few minutes, so that she would see that it is not the "end of the world" to have something on her hands. It really worked well.(Kathy Stanina)

Something that I found fun and practical was having my son help me with baking and helping me bake bread. K. loves to help in the kitchen anyway so this was a good approach for him. He was a bit hesitant about kneading the bread dough but after a while was willing to try. This definitely helped his tactile issues. We also baked cookies (rolled) so he would play with that dough as well. Of course, we still bake together and he is always eager to help. I passed this idea on to his OT specialist and she thought it was a great idea. (Vivian Skordahl)

C., who is autistic, is very tactile defensive. Most of these things we do hand over hand, but he is improving. Not all of these things are "messy" but here are some things we do with him (Virginia Brick):

1. The shaving cream/foam as you mentioned.
2. A large bowl of beans/seeds with toys placed in them, similar to the rice suggestion.
3. A sand box outdoors for summer time.
4. A water table, in our case, bathtub. Filled with bubbles galore, this is done outside of bathtime as he will not go into it but we just "help" him to touch the bubbles. Sometimes we add colour to the water with food colouring but right now that is too drastic for Cameron.
5. We "brush" him with a surgical brush.
6. We also rub him with other textures, terry towel, smooth fabric, etc.
7. Have him "attempt" to hold a "Kooshie" ball, those little rubber balls with, hard to describe, soft little rubber strings?!
8. Have him walk on the grass barefoot in summer.
9. Have him walk across different textures of carpet barefoot.
10. Play-doh and other types of clay.
11. Painting using not just paint but pudding as well.

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