Understanding Tactile Connections

It’s All About Connections Between The Brain and Body

Understanding Tactile

In Kindergarten, we learn about the five senses – touch, taste, sight, smell and hearing.  As home educators, we must be keenly aware of these senses as they are the inroads to the brain.  These senses build pathways in our central nervous system, which keep many of our intricate systems running.

The largest and possibly the most influential sense organ is the skin.  The skin has tactile receptors for both light touch and deep touch.  The brain’s organization at this critical level affects many abilities in life including: pattern of movement, coordination, spatial awareness, pencil grasp and much, much more.

Why do you think summer babies develop more quickly than winter babies?  Summer babies have more skin exposed!  Since an infant’s central nervous system is just a step above a comma at birth, they need intense stimulation of their sensory system.  For example, when a babies lies down on carpet, the brain receives information about soft and warm; while lying on tile, the brain receives information about cold and hard and surface irregularities; lying on linoleum or laminate provides cool and smooth sensations; and lying skin to skin provides warmth and comforting touch sensations.

“What?” you may be saying “Put my little bundle on the floor?!”  Yes, this is exactly what leading professionals in the field of neurodevelopment are saying; put the child on the floor so the brain can receive the stimulation it needs for proper development.

The following symptoms can occur from an immature tactile system:

  1. Irritated by tags in clothing, seams in socks, wearing shoes, etc.
  2. Clothing must be worn either really tight or very loose
  3. Overly sensitive to textures of clothing and/or food
  4. Unusually rough when playing with friends
  5. Avoids being hugged, kissed or even touched
  6. Gets into other people’s “personal space”
  7. Clumsy, bumps into things

These tactile sensitivities or irregularities can cause distractibility, attention problems, and an inability to stay on task, which are symptoms often included on the ADD/ADHD checklists.  These tactile inefficiencies can be addressed and eliminated through the Neurodevelopmental Approach, even in older children and adults.

One activity that helps to build the roadways in our tactile system associated with deep sensation is an activity we call, Deep Pressure.  Just as we intuitively play “this little piggy…” with an infant’s toes; Deep Pressure is designed to give enough deep touch input to the brain in order to normalize these sensations.

Deep Pressure should be done for 4 minutes, twice a day, for 6 to 8 months.  You should press up to the point of pain, starting with the tips of the fingers and working up the arms to the shoulders.  Then, press on the toes and work up the leg to just past the knee.

Tactile Stimulation is another activity that helps to normalize hyper sensitivity to touch.  Use several pieces of rough and smooth textures like burlap, corduroy, silk, satin, cotton, etc.  Gently rub all four limbs for 20 seconds with one of the rough textures and then 20 seconds each with a smooth texture.  Do this twice a day for 6 to 8 months and these sensitivities will begin to diminish and most likely disappear completely.

The tactile system is just one culprit in causing individuals to have attention problems. Look for more root causes of distractibility in our upcoming “neuro” tips.

Learn how to make a huge difference in the ability to follow directions and concentration.   By Jan Bedell, M.Ed., M.ND.    (Little Giant Steps