Tactile refers to the sensation of touch. Some Asperger’s Disorder children are overly sensitive to being touched. They react with stiffening and physically withdrawing from hugs, kisses, and pats of affection. Occupational therapists call this type of physical backing away tactile defensiveness. Asperger’s Disorder children can also be sensitive to physical sensations that come from objects. Tags inside shirts, elastic around the ankles in socks, and stiff or itchy fabrics seem to be particularly bothersome.
Occupational therapists advise that children with tactile sensitivity and tactile defensiveness be treated with a combination of accommodation and exposure.
Accommodation involves providing your child with the type of touch he prefers and initially avoiding the type he does not like. Purchasing the type of clothing he is comfortable in helps decrease daily upsets. Some Asperger’s Disorder children’s wardrobes consist of sweatsuits with the tags cut out, bootie-style socks, and slip-on shoes. Gradual exposure to other types of touch and other types of fabric slowly allows the Asperger’s Disorder child to experience touch and fabrics that irritate him. Occupational therapists introduce various types of touch and materials in a play-like setting. Parents participate under the occupational therapist’s guidance in exposing their child to the stimulation.