The Tactile System

Newsletter September 2013

Did you know?

Our tactile (touch) receptors are found in our mouths as well as in our skin. Our skin is the body’s largest organ. We have different types of tactile receptors in our skin and mouths that detect the sensations of touch, pressure, vibration, temperature and pain.

The sense of touch is the first sense to develop in the womb beginning to develop by 3 week’s gestation.By 12 week’s gestation, the baby’s entire body is sensitive to touch.

Touch is vital for our physical, emotional and mental well being. We are all need touchthroughout our lives. Harlow’s experiments on monkeys during the 1960s demonstrated that need for touch and ‘love’. The monkeys chose a ‘terry towelling mother’ over food.

Effective processing of tactile sensations is vital for body awareness, motor planning, language, academic learning, emotional security and social skills.

Have you met?

GIgirl_opt_000Tilly hates having her hair washed and nails cut. She is very particular about the clothing she will wear. She will only wear very soft cotton clothes. She hates wearing shoes and socks. She insists that all labels are cut out of her clothes.She screams when other people touch herand says that it hurts. She hates any unexpected touch. She dislikes messy play activities and wipes her hands clean if she gets anything on them. She is a very picky eater in particular with regard to the texture of the food. She will not eat anything with lumps in it.

Tilly is over responsive to tactile sensory input. She experiences the tactile input as being much greater than it is. Tilly’s particular problem is also termed ‘tactile defensiveness’.


38018Jim is constantly touching people and objects. He shows very little reaction to pain. He doesn’t notice when his clothes are left twisted on his body. He is a messy eater and is not aware when he has food covering his face. He often chews on objects or his nails. He fiddles with things on his desk in school. He invades other’s personal space.

Jim is responding to tactile input in completely the opposite way to Tilly. He is under responsive to tactile input. He needs much more tactile input before he feels it.

45256Ben has difficulty using tools, such as knife, fork, scissors and pencils, with his hands. He is not able to identify familiar objects solely by touch. He is unable to identify which part of his body has been touched. He finds it very difficult to get dressed. He struggles tying shoe laces, doing zips and buttons. He appears to be ‘clumsy’ when performing tasks. His artwork may be immature for his age. He finds it difficult to work out how to do things.

Ben has a problem with tactile discrimination. He does not get enough information from his tactile receptors to allow himto distinguish between objects. It is similar to wearing a thick pair of skiing gloves and trying to perform delicate tasks such as doing up buttons.

Where can I get more information?


Introduction to Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing Disorder

Tuesday 5 November 2013

The aim of this one day course is to provide teachers and health professionals with an understanding of sensory processing disorder and the everyday difficulties the children experience at school and at home. Practical support strategies will be explored from both an educational and therapy perspective.

Sensory Strategies for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder

Tuesday 26 November 2013

The aim of this one day course is to enable teachers and health professionals
who have attended the Introduction to Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing Disorder course, or have an equivalent knowledge level, to extend their knowledge on sensory integration and sensory processing disorder. The major focus of this course will be to give participants the understanding and skills necessary to identify and analyse sensory behaviours, and then to set up appropriate sensory strategies within home and school.


Sensitive Sam

51Dt4ypo0LL._AA160_-1A book for children, families and professionals about Sam and his sensory difficultiesand the challenges he faces in everyday life.



 Off We Go

hairdresser_optA range of books and iTunes Apps to help prepare a child for daily life situationssuch as going to the dentist, hairdresser, a birthday party.

‘Off We Go’ website


 Social Stories Creator

social-storiesAn app available through iTunes store for creating your own social stories.





Research News

A breakthrough study reveals a biological basis for sensory processing disorders in kids. Researchers in a ground breaking new study from UC San Francisco have found that children affected by sensory processing problems have quantifiable differences in brain structure.Although these results appear promising, it is important to recognise that the sample size of 16 participants is very small. Therefore caution needs to be taken in generalising the results. It does open the way for interesting further research.