What is tactile sensitivity?
Tactile sensitivity or hypersensitivity is an unusual or increased sensitivity to touch that makes the person feel peculiar, noxious, or even in pain. It is also called tactile defensiveness or tactile over-sensitivity. Like other sensory processing issues, tactile sensitivity can run from mild to severe. It is thought to be caused by the way the brain processes tactile input. For these individuals, touch makes the person feel overwhelmed and often leads to avoiding touch when possible. They may be sent into fight or flight over very small, everyday touch sensations.
Hyposensitivities and Hypersensitivities
It’s interesting to note that there are also individuals who have tactile under-sensitivity, also called tactile under-responsiveness. Those who are hyposensitive to tactile input are underwhelmed by the world around them and seek out additional sensory information to feel content. They can’t feel large changes in temperature or wind on their body etc.
An excellent book for you and your family to learn about sensory issues is The Goodenoughs Get in Sync ~New Edition~ 5 Family Members Overcome their Special Sensory Issues by Carol Knanowitz,. Read my review of this book here.
A Great book: Issue Tissue Featuring Ricky Sticky – A Children’s Book About Overcoming Tactile Sensitivity by Maya Wolf, MBA, OTR/L, and Mara Schwartz, BA. Review here.
Ten Common Signs of Tactile Sensitivity
People with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) 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.
- 5- Others are unable to tolerate the sensation of food in the mouth or food or a tooth brush touching their teeth. Bringing them to the dentist is a nightmare!
- 6- In severe cases a child may even refuse to swallow food.
- 7- They cry out in pain because of the feel of the wind on their skin or sand and grass on their feet.
- 8- Their eyes might be very sensitive too and they will need to blink at the slightest amount of cold wind.
- 9- For some individuals tickling can be intolerable.
- 10- Some have difficulty participating in gym activities or sport teams because the foot gear and sport uniforms are just simply too uncomfortable.
Parents should also know that tactile oversensitivity also interferes with the development of fine motor and gross motor skills and may impede other developmental milestones. A young child explores and learns about his world by touching and mouthing; however, children with sensory challenges miss out on gathering information from people and things because they avoid touch and do not want to interact with others or their environment.
How Is Tactile Sensitivity Treated?
The good news is that as soon as a child is evaluated with sensory processing difficulties, they can receive help from an occupational therapist. A plan for tactile desensitization will be drawn up and therapy sessions by the OT will be scheduled. Parents will be shown techniques that may include a “sensory diet” or the use of a “sensory box” they can use at home to help their overly sensitive child. With time and treatment, the amount of tactile stimulation your child can tolerate will increase.
Occupational therapy with a sensory integration approach typically takes place in a sensory-rich environment at the office of a therapist. During OT sessions, the therapist guides the child through fun activities that are designed so the child is constantly challenged. The activities are usually “framed for success” so the child feels happy and proud of his accomplishments.
I suggest you check the books in the category Sensory Issues on Special Needs Book Review . Two books about parenting a child with sensory issues and interviews with the authors I often recommend to parents are the following:
- Chynna T. Laird ‘s book Not Just Spirited: A Mom’s Sensational Journey with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)
- Review of Growing Up with Sensory Issues: Insider Tips from a Woman with Autism by Jennifer McIlwee Myers
- Interview Jennifer McIlwee Myers – Growing Up with Sensory Issues: Insider Tips from a Woman with Autism
Other related books:
I recently posted about this topic at luckyandme.com, where you can find itch-free underwear for boys and girls. Check out my post on “Raising a Sensory Smart Child” at http://www.luckyandme.com/raising-a-sensory-smart-child/
Thanks Liz, for telling us where to get “itch-free” underwear and about yur post on raising a sensory smart child. I like this comment from your post< Another lesson I've learned in life is it's important to get the basics right to free up our energy to focus on the important tasks. > All the best with your company! Lorna
Hi, I have a very smart child who has major isensory issues. Her coordination is not poor enough for dyspraxia to be the diagnosis but she does has nypermobility of her joints which has caused clumsiness. However recently the sensory issues with clothing and shoes are becoming very difficult to cope with and lead to her being late for school or absent altogether on rare occasions where she can’t be calmed or soothed. I’m at the end of my tether today when no pair of shoes could go on without her crying and screaming in ‘pain’, sometimes it’s the restriction, sometimes it’s seams or fabric, sometimes it is the socks and shoes combined. Help….
Hello Anna, Yes, I can see how your child’s sensory issues are difficult for her and for you. I remember going shopping almost a whole day for new school sneakers with our grandchild with sensory issues. We tried many, many pairs of sneakers. NOT one was comfortable enough. On our return she asked her grandfather to glue and fix what was wrong with her old sneakers so she could start the first day of school in shoes she could tolerate. He did this and it worked for a bit but eventfully new sneakers had to be bought. To help her with the socks, her mom figured out if she but them in the dryer a bit while she was getting breakfast that they became softer, cosy warm and she could put them on, adjust them a few times, and finally put her feet in the sneakers. Perhaps it is time for your child to see an occupational therapist who helps kids with sensory challenges. All the best, Lorna
Wow! I can’t begin to say how much I regret any child having to deal with the issue of hypersensitivity of any kind. Thank you for sharing your story . I found it enlightening and informative as we are just realizing this may be just the crutch of the problems we’ve experienced with our little one. Never give up hope of things getting better. It is possible to yet experience joy even if only I’m increments . And prayerfully the years will bring a greater resolve to this dilemma.
Wht about tissue and boxes and paper towels
I’m a middle-aged person who has had this problem all my life, but I didn’t know what was “wrong” with me. I could never wear what other people wore. In the end you learn how to adapt clothes to what you can tolerate. I can’t stand clothes that when you wear them you can feel them. I can’t stand any synthetic fabrics except polyester, but I can’t stand for example elastane or lycra, even if it’s just 1%. Clothes with these fabrics feel like when someone is scratching a blackboard with their fingernail, it’s like my skin is the blackboard and the clothes are the fingernails. I always have to wear very very very soft clothes like cotton, viscose, silk/satin (they make very cheap imitations of silk and satin using polyester nowadays). Turn socks inside out. Cut off all the tags. Drying clothes in a dryer with dryer sheets makes them a looot softer than air drying. Tight clothes like jeans or tight shirts are horrible, you can’t stop feeling them and it feels like being in a prison so get looser clothes for your child. I hope this helps.
Oh my goodness! You sound like the adult version of my 8 year old daughter! She can’t stand the feeling of most textures & it’s only getting worse since she’s been distance learning during the pandemic. She literally has 3 pair of leggings that she will wear & only wears boy cut t-shirts because the cut of the girl t-shirts bother her armpits. Perhaps I’m too lenient, but I’ve given up battling her & let her wear the same clothes over & over. She only wears crocs so I just buy her a new pair when the old ones are worn out. Brushing her hair is also a battle but I persist until she will do it herself. Sometimes, she let’s me brush it. She’s completely brilliant & probably smarter than me. I lose more arguments with her, than I win. But, I just want her to be able to function in society & not dress like a homeless child when she eventually returns to the classroom.
How did your mom get you to wear clothes? I won’t force her into something that bothers her.. but I’m desperate for advice & techniques.
Hi, I know this was a long time ago, but I just read your response as I was researching something I have recently experienced. Similar to what you described about fabrics, I’m basically the same way…it’s like they are a constant distraction and I can’t wait to get home and get comfy. I do lots of painting and craft work, and I recently decided to try my hand at working with clay. It’s not when it’s wet, it’s feeling the dry clay and the dust that is freaking me out! I’m 52 yrs old, and I just described it to my son as “the feeling one would get when hearing nails on a chalkboard.” It’s really harder to describe than that…I swear I start having cold chills racing through my entire body and actually thought I had a fever the first time it happened! Right now as I am typing this, just imagining how it feels makes me feel that way. I wonder if it’s possible for this to be what is causing this…like maybe I have this to the extreme? Oddly, both of my sons, 26 yrs and 34 yrs, describe how they can’t stand how lotion feels on their skin like nails on a chalkboard, yet I feel the same way if I don’t use lotion. Interesting reading.
I don’t have any of these issues, I just cannot and I mean CAN NOT touch paper towels or hand towels. I don’t have an issue with anything else just those, can you tell me what that is?
(don’t email just respond)
I wrote a children’s book about this for my 2 daughters. We hope it can bring understanding to more children. Health and Happiness, Noreen.
Thanks for telling us about your book, I’ll tell you why I can’t wear those clothes!Talking about tactile defensiveness Noreen O’Sullivan.I see Jessica Kingsley Publishers say, “A perfect book for children, families, teachers, therapists and other professionals dealing with tactile defensiveness suitable to be read with children aged 4 and above.” http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/book/9781849055109
I would like to get connected with others who experience this hypersensitivity. I experienced it all throughout my childhood very serverely with clothing, shoes, anything of that sort and then sometimes food, dirt on my hands or feet and much more. I still have mild hypersensitivity but i have much improved in the last 12 years of my life. ( im 24 now). Email me at email@example.com if you can relate. I never knew anyone who experienced these things like i did. Ive never been diagnosed with any kind of autism and i dont think i should be but i dont completely know why i would feel so terrible by certain things physically. I acted as though i was mollested but i was not. Im thinking about this now because i tried wearing contact lenses the other day and it made me very emotionall.. I cant stand having things in my eyes. I also cannot wear tampons, cant wear my socks right side in as the seems touch my toes, i still cut tags and so on.
Hello Rachel, One can have sensory processing issues and not have autism but it seems often individuals with autism have sensory issues also. There is a lot of information on Sensory Processing Disorder, SPD, and lots of books written on the topic. We have a Special Needs Book Review site http://www.specialneedsbookreview.com and one of our categories is «sensory issues”. One book that could be helpful is the following which we reviewed:”Growing Up with Sensory Issues: Insider Tips from a Woman with Autism” by Jennifer McIlwee Myers http://www.specialneedsbookreview.com/2014/10/14/growing-sensory-issues-insider-tips-woman-autism-jennifer-mcilwee-myers/ We also have an interview with Jennifer McIlwee Myers. Hope this is helpful. Lorna
Have you been checked for fibromyalgia? You are a copy of my process of living! Simple touch of my husband rubbing my arm sends me packing, the wind, TV, tags, wrongside out socks, softy pjs and still wear them wrongside out due to the seams scratching me, and numerous other things, even touching something cold overwhelms my brain and body in pain, it’s like the fingernail on chalkboard effect but releasing pain throughout your body as well. Prayers for you!
Cherie, what you describe that you have could also be due to sensory issues. I am not familiar with the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Lorna
Wow, this all sounds so familiar. I can barely wait to get home from work to remove my clothes! Then it’s soft pj’s sometimes inside out like tonight. Seams drive me right up the wall, I start to itch and I have actually bruised myself. Low rise white socks always inside out. Certain spots on my body are painful to the touch, God forbid my husband pull me gently in the wrong spot, I’m done for the night.
And no, I’m not Autistic either.
Thanks Gwenn Lewis for adding to our post. Yes, I see you can easily relate to the challenges folks with sensory processing issues have.
Hey, I have the same thing. It started when I was 24 when I was taking lamictal (a mood stabilizer) for other issues. One moment I was fine and the next moment my skin felt super sensitive to clothes and even my own body hair. I can describe it as ants crawling… Now, after two years, it became like background noise to me. I try to adapt by wearing more loose clothing, but it’s always there… Sometimes I would have an actual bug crawling on me, but wouldn’t notice, because I’m so used to the feeling being nothing. My doctors can’t help me.. I was given something against nerve pain but it doesn’t help at all (obviously, since this isn’t pain) It’s now been two years and it’s not going away. I wish I had a Dr House to tell me what I have… I don’t have autism, I’m a perfectly normal individual, a master’s student, a human rights activist etc. It freaking sucks, I can honestly say this has reduced my quality of life greatly.
Thanks Rachel for sharing your story…and I wish it had a happier ending. Folks do not have to have autism to have Sensory Processing issues; however, many who have autism do have sensory challenges also. Have you tried sessions with an occupational therapist? Perhaps this would be helpful. All the best with your studies! Lorna
Hi do you have a sensitivity to paper too? Are you still on Lamictal? Thank you
I am 70 now and have only non-formal confirmation of Asperger’s Syndrome. You sound very Aspie to me. I overcame my sensitivities pretty much of my life by just toughing it out where I couldn’t make adaptations. I lived most of my life in the country for the relative quiet, but now I’m stuck in the city and someone’s electronic pest repeller is killing me with sleep deprivation and constant anxiety. I’m having a terrible time convincing anyone of this semiconstant vibration through the floor. I bought a memory foam for my bed, but waiting for delivery is hell. Most of the things you list also bother me. I also have PTSD, which makes meltdowns more likely.
Thanks for reading our post on Tactile Sensitivity and taking the time to write a comment. Sorry to read that you now must live in the city and that your symptoms of sensitivity have become worst. Hope you find solutions to help you feel better. Lorna
My 13 year old daughter can hear the plug-in pest chaser too. My aunt didn’t believe her or me until i showed her by plugging and unplugging it, & skiing my daughter if she could hear it. She got it right each time…over 15 times.
Thanks Danielle for sharing. Yes, I believe you. Our daughter with sensory issues can hear the ticking of a wrist watch on someone else!
Hey, Rachel, I get the same thing. I can’t wear tight clothing because it irritates my skin. And I also cut tags off of clothing. I can’t stand the way socks feel so I just gave them up. Anyway, this may be just a very very long phase since I’m only 12.
Thanks Lauren for leaving a comment. Unfortunately for most these sensory issues stay with them for life; however, they learn what bothers them most and avoid the irritants. Also with an occupational therapist’s help they do get better. Now one can buy clothing, shoes, etc. for folks with sensory issues. All the best, Lorna
I have similar feelings, but slightly different and more severe. I’m 25 and it’s only getting worse for me. Feelings I hate include, sweat that is drying, moistness, rough fabrics and sometimes some softer fabrics too, stickiness in general (I always have to wear baby powder on my nethers and when I get out of the shower my eyelids get so sticky I have to put baby powder on them as well), I hate having to bend over because I can’t stand the feeling of my breasts touching each other, many kinds of clothing tags bug me, if I had long hair still I wouldn’t be able to wear headphones, I can hardly wear hats, I can’t wear latex gloves, I have some sort of panic attack when I try to put on a ring, I hate wearing my glasses, earrings irritate me, I’m very picky with my clothing (the only clothes I can comfortably wear are leggings (even though spandex makes me itch) and loose tank tops/blouses (I freak out and cry sometimes when I’m forced to wear my work clothes), I avoid socks as much as possible and I can never wear socks in the house, my hands and feet 90% of the time feel super cold like you’ve been outside on a 40 degree day or it feels like my hands are overheating and the heat just can’t escape from them, my fingers are super sensitive even just typing on a phone my fingers feel super uncomfortable, I get chills a lot even when it’s a normal temperature, I wear sandals in my house a lot because I don’t like the feeling of my bare feet picking up crumbs, dirt, cat hair, etc, I hate using any kind of lotion, my shoes have to be a size larger and wide otherwise I’ll panic because I can’t move my toes around, I hate touching things that strangers have touched frequently (like it sometimes feels so gross that hand sanitizer doesn’t satisfy me. I have to wash my hands) These are only my tactile symptoms. I could tell you more of my other symptoms regarding other areas of autism, but I think I’d write a book trying to do that.
I HATED pants as a kid. I stopped wearing them completely when I was seven and only just started wearing them again. Also, lotions i HATED, needles, etc. I thought it was just me, so you can imagine how good it felt to learn that this was an actual thing that others go through
Unfortunately, it’s a bit too late for me to have occupational therapy being at 18 years old. I always knew something was wrong with me but my parents seemed to brush it all off, so now I’m doing my own research. I hope more information like this will one day be much more thought of then it was when I was younger.
Thanks Callie for taking the time to comment. Wishing you all the best and that you find ways to cope with the sensory issues that may still affect you.
I developed hypersensitivity later in life around early high school related to stress and anxiety. I was not this way way when I was a child. I’m in my early 20s now and have many sensitivities related to my hands and face for the most part. Especially when my skin is dry, around my fingernails and my knuckles. I have been getting acrylic nails for a year or so now and have found that they really help with my hand sensitivities. I specifically don’t like having things touch the area right around my fingernails and right at the top and wearing the acrylics eliminates things touching these areas. I think this issue is talked about a lot with children but rarely in adults. I am so tired of feeling like a crazy person with these sensitivities. Having to manage this and function as an adult in society is hard. You just can’t scream like a child can, even when you feel like you need to crawl out of your own skin to escape. It sucks. I have a lot of sympathy for kids dealing with this because I know exactly how it feels.
Julia, thank you so much for sharing something that worked for you so other people with such sensitivities can also try it. Lorna
my 10 yr old son has hand issues as well. He can’t stand to touch soft or silky things. I remember as a toddler when I would bathe him he would ball his little fist up so the soap wouldn’t touch them. It absolutely breaks my heart. I try in every way i can to accommodate him. I wish I could do more. I HATE seeing him suffer.
Hello Tera, Has your son received help from an occupational therapist trained in sensory integration? Some kids, after doing sessions with a therapist, become less sensitive to what bothers them. Good luck with this. Lorna
I am searching for a way to help my precious 10 year old grandson.Noise is a problem for him,even his classroom noise,which impacts his concentration and his learning.The seams,tags and textures of his clothing torment him.Yesterday a soda pop was spilled on him and he was almost hysterical until he was washed off.He couldn’t tolerate the sticky feeling and his reaction was almost as if he was being burned.He has a lot of self knowledge and actively seeks out calming situations.He tells me he’d rather feel peaceful than excited.I would like him to be more comfortable in the word and I am also concerned about him being teased by “tougher”kids.
Hello Carol, By reading your comment I can see how difficult it must be for your grandson. In our post we have written, “The good news is that as soon as a child is evaluated with sensory processing difficulties, they can receive help from an occupational therapist. A plan for tactile desensitization will be drawn up and therapy sessions by the OT will be scheduled. Parents will be shown techniques that may include a “sensory diet” or the use of a “sensory box” they can use at home to help their overly sensitive child. With time and treatment, the amount of tactile stimulation your child can tolerate will increase.” There are also many very good parenting books on this topic also. See our Special Needs Book Review site and go under the category “Sensory Issues” -here is the link: http://www.specialneedsbookreview.com/category/sensory/ Also check out this post we wrote titled, What To Do If You Think Your Child Has Sensory Processing Disorder http://kidcompanions.wpengine.com/think-child-sensory-processing-disorder/ Hope this is helpful, Lorna
Hello, I’ve had a wide variety of sensitivities almost all my life . I can remember when i was in school having to go to therapy at school. I am 49 now and have so many more sensory issues that my kids tell me I should live in a bubble . Some of my sensitivities are to touch smell sights like moving water in a lake on a windy day definitely loud noise . I don’t do well with heights or motion . Just yesterday I was with my daughter in Hobby Lobby and I had found a gift for my oldest son of corse it was very high up on the wall and I had to ask for help so the gentleman brought out a very large and very high ladder because of the height I had to back up and stand in another aisle so I couldn’t see the ladder the gentleman thought I must be crazy and my daughter reassured him that it was ok . I also have quite the list of allergies to go with all of this . At this age and stage in my life would it be beneficial to try to seek therapy because I’m always afraid of losing my motor skills and that would be detrimental for me I don’t like to sit still .
Hello Lisa, Thanks for sharing your story. While I was reading it, I remembered an awesome book I read and reviewed for our Special Needs Book Review site titled Growing Up with Sensory Issues: Insider Tips from a Woman with Autism by Jennifer McIlwee Myers. Read about this book here: http://www.specialneedsbookreview.com/2014/10/14/growing-sensory-issues-insider-tips-woman-autism-jennifer-mcilwee-myers/
Also read our review of The Out-of-Sync Child Grows Up: Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder in the Adolescent and Young Adult Years“ by Carol Stock Kranowitz, MA. http://www.specialneedsbookreview.com/2016/10/06/the-out-of-sync-child-grows-up-coping-with-sensory-processing-disorder-by-carol-kranowitz/
Hope this is helpful. Lorna
Thank you very much for the reading material
My 9 yr old grandson hates to have his fingernails cut, and following the same, walks around acting like he can’t touch a anything, plus he keeps running water over his hands.
Hello Bobbi, your grandson seems to have some sort of sensory issues. He perhaps should be seen by an occupational therapist who works in this field. There are many books on the market on this topic. See our site specialneedsbookreview.com and go here: http://www.specialneedsbookreview.com/category/sensory/
Also we have another post in this blog titled “Students with Sensory Processing Issues: Sensory Smart School Solutions by Lindsey Biel, OTR/L” that might be helpful. Find it here: http://kidcompanions.wpengine.com/students-with-sensory-processing-issues-sensory-smart-school-solutions-by-lindsey-biel-otrl/
Hope this is helpful. Lorna
My cat spoons with me at night and often rubs her face and nose on my hands until she gets comfortable. I woke up a couple nights ago with a very bizarre sensation. My cat was rubbing on my hands and I felt a heaviness in my throat and tongue and the sensation that she was literally rubbing her nose along the inside if my throat. I also felt a sense of detachment and had a panic attack.
I had the feeling last night with a panic attack when she would try to touch me and this morning I am feeling it slightly without any panic attack, but she is not even touching me. I’m under a lot of stress in my life right now and so the panic attack makes sense. But this hand to throat sensation is makes me feel like I might be losing touch with reality.
I also took a break from Vyvanse over the last few days, but back on it today. I’m hoping that withdrawal is the cause of my symptoms. I’ve been doing a lot of research and breathing to calm myself/stay in reality. I’ve been experiencing tingling in my hands and feet for several months as well, but not sure if it’s related. Going to make a doc appt asap.
Can someone tell me if my symptoms make sense? Thank you!
Yogigirl, this sounds frightening for you! Did you have a breathing reaction? Has it ever happened before or sense? The sense of detachment isn’t too uncommon. It is actually what one feels in a meditative state, a separation of self. It may have just caught you off guard. Cats can do that. However, one can suddenly show an allergic reaction too. If you had trouble breathing, itchy eyes, hives, or have had other such symptons since, I recommend caution. Change your AC filters, bed sheets, and stop sleeping with your cat.
Thanks Artsyindi for offering advice to Yogigirl. Lorna
I have an extremely weird form of this. For me:
Negative stimuli will induce extreme fight or flight responses: pruned fingers, dried clay, paper towels, cotton towels, most rough things…. I can’t even think about all this without getting goosebumps! I wear sweatpants EVERY. DAY.
But here is where I differ… I don’t only get negative reactions out of stimuli (sensory defensiveness), but I also get positive reactions out of other stimuli.
Positive stimuli, will induce extreme comfort: silk, condensated glass, thick lotion is the best 🙂 !!!! , soft skin especially on my belly, oil, most smooth things..
Any discomfort from the negative stimuli can effectively be comforted from the positive stimuli…
For most people the largest side effect is poor motor skills because of an illogical sensitivity to the environment. For me, this couldn’t be further from true. . In fact, I’d argue my brain is processing too-well. Better than yours. I can see objects by the way they feel in my mind. It’s like synesthesia. And it’s stable. The reaction I got from cotton when I was 4 is the exact same reaction I get now at 20.
And I have wayyyyy stronger than average motor skills and I believe it’s correlated strongly to my “disorder” I want to relabel as an “ability”.
Thanks Ryan for taking the time to write a comment to help others know more about sensory issues some individuals have. Lorna
A little bit ago I commented about how I have symptoms of tactile sensitivity (SPD) but that I also show clear non-symptoms of SPD. After finding people with similar symptoms in OCD forums and SPD forums I finally came across “tactile emotional synesthesia” as being the most accurate diagnosis for what I have. It shares similar symptoms to SPD but is clearly NOT it. Just be careful to distinguish the two. Here is the scholarly article:
And here is a video of me playing piano blindfolded using touch as my sole guide.
Thanks Ryan for explaining your “tactile emotional synesthesia”. Lorna
My granddaughter is 8 and shows many of the same reactions to touch that I am reading in these replies. She would go to sleep rubbing the satin edge of her blanket, especially the tucked corner. Doesn’t like pruned fingers, towels, and gas trouble sitting still at meal time. Recently she has complained about it being too quiet at meals when no one is talking. She has flannel sheets on her bed at my house and doesn’t complain but told me the flannel sheets on my bed feel like rubber. She slips between the velour blanket and the satin comforter. She has a great fear of the dentist. At one appointment she ran from the chair and didn’t stop till she was in the parking lot. She is normally a quiet child who loves to cuddle. She is going to the dentist soon to have a cavity filled and is very anxious about this. She will also need braces before long. What suggestions can you give for us to help her through this necessary experience?
Hello Robin, Thanks for visiting our site and taking the time to leave a comment. Yes, your granddaughter seems to have all the signs of having sensory issues. Going to the dentist is very difficult for individuals who have this…many things bother them from the bright lights, to the noise or smells, etc. We reviewed a great book that might be helpful. See our post titled “Book Review of Sensitive Sam Visits the Dentist by Marla Roth-Fisch” https://kidcompanions.mystagingwebsite.com/?s=Sensitive+Sam+Visits+the+Dentist
Also to help her, you can now find lots of clothes, even socks and shoes, with no tags or rough seams. All the best in helping your granddaughter – Lorna
Hello Do you have any advice please for a 10 year old boy I work with. He cannot use pencils to draw or colour in at all but can use a standard pen to write. ts not the actual pencil its when the pencil touches and reacts to the paper. He also has sensitivity issues with some of the paper in the books he uses, he is a clever boy so don’t really think this is a delaying tactic, but it is become increasingly difficult. He has just recently been diagnosed with ASD . Art and craft work leave him anxious and aggressive .
Hello Joan, I wonder if your 10 yr old boy cannot tolerate the “sound” the pencils to paper make. Did you check if the pencils have a certain smell he does not like? Is it the texture of the paper his hands have to touch when he is coloring? Crafts can be a messy affair; therefore, for many children with autism who also have sensory issues this is difficult. Would he try using those tight fitting cloves health care professionals wear so he does not feel the rough paper or messy crafts? Is the paper being used shiny and gives a glare to his sensitive eyes? …so many things can upset these children. Hope this is helpful. Lorna
I sometimes cringe to the feel of certain pencils on paper… they don’t run smooth, as if they had rough parts or splinters that reacted against the paper. Try soft technical pencils instead (the rechargeable ones). Also used to hate the texture of the paper after showering when I was a student and did homework right after, a strange softness to it. I cant stand wearing sandals if i have dirt on my feet, although I can manage walking barefoot everywhere. Just not putting shoes on afterwards (i need to water the sandals first for example). I cant stand tags or certain seams in clothing. I have this thing about passing my hand over the mouse and keyboard as to clean it from any tiny piece lf dirt… all the time!. very easy for me to puke whenever I want. Only thinking about it can trigger it. I cant stand turtle necks too much, or anything touching my neck (may make me puke). Im a designer and have always been moved by the arts. Biggest pleasure would be dipping my hands in a bucket of paint. But never until this year (Im 41) had thought about being sensory sensitive. But it does sound like I may be, right?. I developed graphic dermatitis after giving birth (I can write on my skin with my fingernails). My toddler son is precocious, tested high and seems to have sensitivity to sound, touch and so on. For example he cant stand having paint on his hands!
Hello Kinabalu, Yes, it really sounds like you have lots of sensory issues. One good thing about your story is that you have seen this sensitivity in your son at a very early age and you will be able to help him. I would start with your baby’s family doctor and then ask to have your child evaluated to see if he has sensory processing disorder. Often these children can be helped by an occupational therapist who specializes with sensory issues. To help adults like you, we have a great book to recommend, Growing Up with Sensory Issues: Insider Tips from a Woman with Autism by Jennifer McIlwee Myers. Here is the review: http://www.specialneedsbookreview.com/2014/10/14/growing-sensory-issues-insider-tips-woman-autism-jennifer-mcilwee-myers/
Good luck with all this, Lorna
I’m 21 now, and for my whole life I have been experiencing something like this. I’ve never come across someone with exactly the same problem, though.
I get the familiar nails-on-a-chalkboard feeling when touching certain things too (thankfully, no heightened sensitivity to sound, sights, smells, etc.) For me, it is mostly after my hands have been wet and then dried. Sometimes it happens randomly, too, but the first several hours after taking a shower, my hands, feet, and thighs are in agony. I feel incapable of touching denim, paper unless it is the glossy type from magazines or textbooks, cardboard, suede (though that one is *all the time*), towels, and worst of all – my own skin. After my hands have dried, one finger cannot touch another finger without pain, unless the hand is enclosed tightly in a fist. I can’t function much. This means that I shower and wash my hands much less often than I should, but I can’t deal with the pain of it. I didn’t discover until high school that Bath & Body Works body lotion is usually very helpful for it. I think my hands feel too dry after having been wet for a period of time, and they need moisture. Some types of lotion make it much, much worse, though. If I don’t have lotion I will absolutely refuse to get my hands wet. If I get them wet without realizing I had no lotion, I will put anything I can on my hands to make them feel better. This includes licking my hands, putting chapstick on them, or putting a sticky substance such as soda, chocolate, or glue. I know it sounds really odd, but it’s the way I have to live. When I was 5-6 years old I began refusing to take a bath without wearing gloves, and my parents describe me as shying away from water even as an infant. They were very dismissive about it though, so I was never able to tell any doctors or try to get it amended as a child.
To be honest, it truly makes life more difficult than some could imagine. I think it is a major factor in the anxiety and depression I experience. It just feels awful to have such a painful problem and seemingly have no treatment for it, feeling stick with it forever. Not to mention that no one else can understand so I just feel so alone.
Hello Emily Church, Thank you very much for sharing your story because it can help other people who feel the same way and always thought no one else was like them.
I am sure each day is difficult for you. My personal sensory malaise comes from touching wet wood. I get that feeling of “finger nails on a blackboard” only thinking of washing a wooden spoon, cutting board, high chair, etc. I cannot have a wooden Popsicle stick in my mouth and must look away when I see others sucking on a wooden toothpick or ice cream spoon. This is easily avoided but for your problems it is much more serious as it happens often every day. I hope that you can explain all this to an occupational therapist who should be able to help you. It is good that you have found cream that helps but there should be many other ways to help you.
There are many books that would be helpful. “Growing Up with Sensory Issues: Insider Tips from a Woman with Autism” by Jennifer McIlwee Myers is such a book! I have reviewed it and here is the link: http://www.specialneedsbookreview.com/2014/10/14/growing-sensory-issues-insider-tips-woman-autism-jennifer-mcilwee-myers/
We also have an interview with the author here: http://www.specialneedsbookreview.com/2015/04/27/interview-jennifer-mcilwee-myers-growing-up-with-sensory-issues-insider-tips-from-a-woman-with-autism/ In the interview she explains well about sensory issues. All the best to you, Lorna
I am exactly like you Emily! EXACTLY. 42 years old now and I can barely read your description because I can “feel it!”, right down to the wooden popscicle sticks! I cannot wash wooden spoons and hand washing/drying dishes is AWFUL! So no ? You are not alone ?
This is me. This is exactly me.
Hello! I have this same exact problem you are describing. I never find relief with my hands. I typically put lotion on a million times until my hands are so coated I finally feel some sort of normalcy. 🙁
Not just a kid problem! I’m 53, and my sensitivities seem worse every year. I experience many of those mentioned by the commenters above. Underwear is a no-go. Clothing tags are out. I’ve tried dozens of styles and fabrics in socks. I have two sets of sheets that work at night but still toss and turn to be comfortable in my skin before I can sleep. It’s a constant creeping sensation that, sometimes, erupts and makes me feel like stripping off all my clothes and running naked for relief.
Why no attention on this? It sounds as if more people may suffer daily from this than we realize.
Thanks Kecia for explaining how sensory issues affect you. Yes, it is important for others to know that Sensory Processing Disorder is not something one just outgrows. Parents who think their child has sensory challenges have to have their child evaluated and must see that he/she receives help from a pediOT. Lorna
I’ve had a problem with rough fabrics since I was a little kid. I’m now in my sixties. Found it near impossible to wear a wool pullover as it felt itchy even through my shirt and vest. Trousers with any wool at all in were also a problem. Also struggled with brushed cotton pillowcases against my face. Think it’s basically down to materials that have a woolly surface. Even seeing other people wearing woolly jumpers, especially against their necks, freaks me out a little. Not really been a problem since I could choose my own clothes/bedding. Interesting that it could be related to autism. I’ve always been a bit socially inept. Did an online test once and I was in the slightly autistic range.
Thanks Alan for sharing your sensory issues. I know what you mean when you said even seeing others wearing wollen clothing makes you uncomfortable. I hate touching wet wood and seeing a person with a Popsicle stick in their mouth freaks me out. Sometimes just thinking about washing wood furniture makes me uncomfortable. Have a great new year!
Hi, I’m really in need of some advice, my son (10 yrs) has spd, he hates wearing clothes and shoes but recently this has got worse, every night he gets a really uncomfortable feeling that will start in one place of the body then spreads to his whole body. He’s been having meltdowns and lashes out, shouts etc and he either can’t sleep or (on rare occasions when he falls asleep) wakes up in the middle of the night screaming in frustration. He does not wear PJs ever and even throws off his covers which he was previously okay with. I can’t get him to calm down and I really don’t know what to do to help him, I’ve tried giving him a bath to see if that would help calm him, it did, but as soon as he got out the uncomfortable ( as he puts it) feeling comes back and meltdown starts again. Neither of us has slept properly in the last 2 weeks and we have been on a waiting list for an OT for the past year but still can’t get an appointment. Has anyone had similar experiences or advise, I just don’t know what to do to help him. Thanks
Hello AIMS R, I really do not know what to suggest that might help your son. You say he does not like PJs or even covers… what I am going to suggest goes against this but here goes: Have to tried “weighted products” like a blanket or vest? Now they even have compression clothing and sheets. Check this blog post we wrote titled TOP 5 SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER BOOKS AND TOP 5 RESOURCES https://kidcompanions.mystagingwebsite.com/top-5-sensory-processing-disorder-books-and-resources/ This post has parenting books and resources that might help your child. Lorna
AIMS R, I sometimes get a feeling when I’m trying to sleep I call it crawling worms or crawling ants, rolling around a lot brings some relief. It’s worst if the bedding (sheets blankets etc.) is very tight. But I read of a woman who was like that and she was diagnosed with restless legs syndrome. Sometimes maybe your son simply needs to roll around a lot and it will calm the sensation down. Also the woman with restless legs syndrome was told that it would be worse if she had nutritional deficiencies and to take a multi-vitamin that would cover all her nutritional needs, in case she wasn’t getting all the nutrients that she needed from her diet. One nutrient in particular seemed especially important, I can’t remember which one it was but maybe iron? I don’t know because I am now taking a multi-vitamin and I haven’t had this problem anymore in ages. Perhaps this could help your son.
Hi. My 7 year old daughter has a few issues. She hates noises from paper, plastic, squeaky doors and other things. She doesn’t like cotton fabrics and some wool. She says that only looking at a dry towel gives her bad feelings. I don’t know how to help her. I try to buy clothes in other fabrics, but it’s difficult with beddings and towels. It sometimes helps that I dress her so that she doesn’t have to touch the clothes herself. In school she feels terrorised by kids walking with sneakers or boots that makes terrible noise on the rubber floor, gym class is the worst. I wish she didn’t have to struggle with this. Books are hard to read because she hates to hold them. She’s a great reader though, and very intelligent. I haven’t found any way to help her yet. Teachers and others I’ve talked to doesn’t seem very understanding. Greetings from Norway…
Hello mom from Norway, I can relate easily with how you feel about helping your daughter. One of our daughters had many of the same sensitivities. For irritating sounds sometimes could she use ear buds and listen to music while in the gym, or in the classroom, etc.? Explain to the gym teacher, classroom teachers her problem. Tell them about the ear buds, get their permission and cooperation… because when the teachers are speaking or an oral activity is going on your daughter has to be told so she can remove the ear buds to listen. About the clothing… there are companies that make seam free clothing with materials other than cotton and wool. For bedding, if she wore a “comfortable for her” toes to neck pajamas then her skin would not touch the bedding. You could look into those stretchy, very tight, almost sleeping bags for kids with sensory processing issues.
About unable to hold books: can the books be available as ebooks? Also could the books be placed in a book cover of a material she can tolerate and that each time she turns a page it can be tucked in that cover on the edges so she doesn’t have to hold it open? Bank tellers have a rubber finger cover to count cash…could such a finger cover or little gloves be helpful? Hope this is helpful.
Please check out a post we wrote titled: TOP 5 SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER BOOKS AND TOP 5 RESOURCES https://kidcompanions.mystagingwebsite.com/top-5-sensory-processing-disorder-books-and-resources/. We have links where to buy some of the resources I mentioned above.
All the best! Lorna
My son is 7 and I am not sure if he may suffer from this disorder but I am concerned. Sometimes he will be play with his toys then he will get extremely angry and complain that he toys are sticky or wet. When I look at the toys they aren’t wet or sticky at all. I am really reaching out for help.
I have tactile sensitivity and I know of a possible cure/remedy, the chemicals from soap and on clothes may make the problem much much worse, they strip skin of sebum, they damage tissues in body. I use organic Castile soap. I also had Severe light sensitivity and temperature, now my light sensitivity is nearly gone but temperature is still there but mild.
Also I eat organic food now, I’d bet these problems stem from poisons in food and items we use on body. Passed down to children and or the children also eat poison and use poison like mutant wheat, crisper cas9 food, most soap, most food.
I’m sorry I took so long to find y’all and help out with this, I read almost all the comments and didn’t see a solution besides how to conquer fear, by scaring self until numb, that did not work for me, it works for fear maybe but not this. Besides the soap and food, also aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, are all poisons, tumeric and willow bark work just as well or better in my opinion, and they don’t destroy humans from inside out.
I am 31 years old and I have this and in some ways it’s serious. I always had major meltdowns during: routine physicals especially when I had to get blood draws or immunizations. Same thing goes for dental check ups. I’ve basically given up on myself because of this
I’m 35 years old and developed what I call a “paper allergy” just a few years ago. I used to love reading books and now I cannot bear the thought of touching opening them up and turning the pages. Cardboard boxes are possibly even worse and I must wear gloves to touch them. Just the thought of a card board box elicits the grima response (fingernails on chalkboard phenomenon). When I see people folding paper and creasing it with their fingers, I have to always tell them to stop. Even writing this triggers this terrible sensation.
I’ve had to deal with a lot of paper for my job which is high stress and traumatic at times so my own personal belief as to the cause of this sensation is based out of a trauma response whenever I interact or see others interact with paper, cardboard, or possibly the most painful – rubbing of paper towels on wood.
I’m planning on quitting my job over for a variety of reasons and the “paper problem” is one major factor in this decision. Does anybody else have experience with cardboard/paper-specific sensitivities like this? I have mentioned this to many people and they cannot relate.
Ethan, I know you posted this in July but I just saw in while researching something for my grandson. He just started experiencing these sensations and we have no idea why. Did you ever find out any causes or treatments about it?
I’m similar somewhat..
Having mild Asperger’s (which the idiot doctors decided to lump it with Austim that I personally find insulting)
I’m more undersensitive at least to feel
And oversensitive on certain sounds
For instance, I love the feel of; velvet, silk, polyester including polyester blends, love how soft sand, crushed chalk, & flour
I remember having gymnastics class and being very fond of the flour-like powder they had to obtain a good firm grip on the high bars… although I was afraid to do anything when I was hanging on said bar…
afraid of both heights and I knew in my gut that I wouldn’t be able to catch the other bar and successfully hold on without instantly letting go and falling to the floor humiliatingly.
But I could do the balancing beam just fine
Guess it’s because I was closer to the floor than the bar even tho an instructor was with me at either.
As for sounds;
It bothers me when a semi or semi-like truck is coming/going by the low pitch they emmit always will have me turning my head in its direction and stare it down to where it either passes by or when I was a child @ my parent’s hm, comes up the long driveway and I see the culprit of the annoying noise
A fear of mine that I vowed to myself to never get over is both the pitch and noise of vacuums… Some may think that this fear is/may be stupid/stupid sounding
But it is a real fear like anything else nonetheless…. Plus it never helped that I’d have nightmares about the machines suffocating me to death in various odd ways… Same fear applied for tornadoes as well as having nightmares of them too.
I hate the sound of gasping for air when unneeded… For example, an artist singing but when they take a breath of air, they to me sound like they’re suffocating as they’re singing…. >_>’
I also hate to hear my own breathing in my ear via my pillow… I tent to love X-large stuffies(plush animals) to sleep on as the faux fur mutes said breathing annoyance. 8D
Tastes; I loathe bitter & sour in fruits
Grapefruits are a major no.
Sweet tarts candy I oddly like once in a blue moon tho… XD
I’m a sugar crazy head XD aka I love chocolate, peppermint, mint, butter pecan, butterscotch, caramel etc
I tend to dislike saying caramel as
Car-a-mel but rather pronounce it as
Car-a-mel instead just like cabinet
I personally find distinctly pronouncing the ‘in’ in cabinet is unnecessary & sounds stupid…. whether it truly is or not
The fact that I dislike the doctors lumping Asperger’s with Austim is that for one, I find it unfair… Why did they have it septated to begin with if they were going to put it back in the Autism list to begin with?
I feel that they just want to have less work and be lazy just to get more money in reality
If it’s not clearly obvious atm, I have a very big pet peeve about being treated & talked to as if I know nothing and just a stupid lump of brain space…
Just because I or anyone else has Any kind of mental disability regardless of what that may be, Doesn’t mean that I or the person in question is in fact ‘stupid’!
Unbeknownst to some, those who have a mental disability may be the most intelligent out there!
We may come across differently in social society but that’s no excuse for treating anyone like they’re inferior by any means!
Lol — that specific pet peeve wasn’t helped any when growing up I felt/suspected my dad was almost always treating me as such… not to condemn him tho! He had never dealt with or knew how to help someone with Asperger’s and would show his frustration in anger/yelling…
Mind you, again, it was dad’s first ever time in trying to raise a child period..
and for what it’s worth, he did a whole lot better than I would’ve!
And our relationship is non-the-worse regardless! ;]
Oh! Btw, I DO NOT recommend giving any kind of medication to a child who has a mental disorder! And will gladly Recommend going all natural!
Why? Growing up in the late 80’s (1985) and onwards my parents didn’t have the kind of research doctors do now more were there natural programs out there either..
That said… When as a young kid, the DRs diagnosed me with Asperger’s and recommended the only thing that was available@ the time…meds.
What I was told later on, is that the meds would make me very cranky and I would give my parents glowering stares as they woke me up…
Eventually, they decided to oust the meds and stop them… Thankfully so!
But why I’m stressing this is because of the after affects I have from said meds…
My memory of my youth/life period was jeopardized.. I hardly remember my childhood and that fact is still true today as an adult… Long term memory loss I think is what it’d be called… I wouldn’t put it passed that short term may suffered along with it…
What’s awesome is that we (parents & I) learned of a natural program for people with mental disorders… We went through the program and as I did so, mom & dad saw a significant improvement from when I started to finished it.
I probably would have done a longer period of time but when I was in the program I found & fell in love..
Mu hubby was able to witness the program as well =D
Not sure how pricey they are but I can tell you without a doubt that the $$ spent is well worth the effort..
Program: Brain Balance: their website::
They’re also on FaceBook as Brain Balance =D
Check them out you’ll never know till ya try!! ;}
I could probably find more to add but it’d take too much space as I’ve already have a book by now I’m sure… X’D
I’m similar as well. My sensory issues actually started when I was in 4th grade. I only like to wear a white buttoned-down shirt, jeans and khakis. I am currently 16 years old and in 10th grade. I hope there’s future treatments for this in the future. Thankfully this is my only issue, no hypersensitivity to smell, sound, etc.
This is a eye opening. I am a man of 60 and I have been aware if being tactile defensive my whole life but I never realized how many other symptoms I had . My eye have coordination was poor . So it made sports difficult. Mt handwriting has always been terrible . I always hear jokes like – you should be a doc torah because if bad handwriting. I was terrified if crowds and i still have a fear if enclosed spaces. I could. Not swallow pills and I hate wearing anything constricting especially against my throat like scarves or turtlenecks . I still don’t like loud noise.s. The real problem as an adult has been the touching issue . If someone touches me unexpectedly on the side or on my stomach I or tried to touch my throat or chest, I jumó or get
very angry. I can only tolerate hugs from someone I am totally comfortable with and people who want to kiss a d hug when I meet them . Covid has had some benefit for me in that regard!
None of the other comments mentioned intimate touching but it has been an issue.
I am motivated after reading this to seek out an OT . However at my age , I don’t know if I could be helped .
Has anyone heard of a sensitivity to paper? My son’s grade 4 teacher said she had trouble getting my son to get his ideas down on paper & for some reason, he did much better typing out his answers. Fast forward to the beginning of the pandemic & remote learning & my son has a meltdown, saying that he can’t stand the feeling of touching paper! I asked him if anything else bothered him like that & he said when silverware clangs together. I know he has always excessively worried about the wind. He has no tactile aversions to clothing that I’m aware of.
The aversion to paper obviously makes school work difficult for him at times when he has no alternative than to write things down (math).