Danny is a sweet fourth grade boy who loves to play sports –especially contact sports like tackle football.
(I can’t imagine choosing to play a game where I’d willingly be tackled.)
But, although Danny enjoyed the crude
physical crashes of his chosen sport, he didn’t allow either of his parents to come close enough to touch him. Even though he was comfortable dressing and undressing in front of his parents, touch was just out of the question.
Danny’s parents were warm, loving, and supportive. They didn’t want to cause Danny discomfort but they were concerned about his seeming extreme sensitivity to fine touch. Danny’s parents understood how important healthy touch is to physical, emotional, and mental development, and they wanted to help him learn to be comfortable with touch so that he could access the positive developmental benefits.
Together, Danny’s parents and I decided to tackle this problem, starting in Danny’s sleep. We followed a structured procedure that you can apply to your own child to help him or her develop a tolerance for fine touch.
The Touch Tolerance Progression
- Start with the limb that’s least sensitive to touch. Hold by cupping your hands around the limb, and apply rounded, loving squeeze pressure with your palms (not fingers!) for 7-10 seconds. Do this in at least 3 places on every limb while the child is sleeping.
- Begin changing the massage regimen little by little, and adding more types of massage while your child is sleeping.
- The first two steps typically take anywhere from 1-4 weeks. When you feel that your child is ready, it’s time to progress by following the same regimen during the day, when your child is awake and relaxed. Continue carrying out these massages for a good few weeks, or months.
- When your child can tolerate the limb massages, you proceed by brushing different materials along his or her arms, legs, back, belly, chin area, or the areas he or she will tolerate. Try using fur, silk, a soft washcloth or bath gloves, or a soft brush.
- You can also use different types of dish washing materials including sponges, and different types of paintbrushes from your local hardware store painting aisle. Be careful not to brush against body hairs as this sensation can be uncomfortable.
We’re very happy to share that Danny is progressing. He’s slowly but surely coming out of his protective shell and learning to be comfortable with fine touch. Danny’s mom recently reported that he didn’t shy away when she took his hand.
I know that The Touch Tolerance Progression requires a time commitment from you as a caregiver. I also know that it may be uncomfortable for a lot of people, especially those who aren’t the “touchy-feely” type, to implement this intervention.
If The Touch Tolerance Progression seems overwhelming for either of those reasons, know that while you are not alone, I stillencourage you to give it a try. Remember—you can take it day by day. Play it by ear.
And I am available to answer your questions or concerns. You may share your experiences in the comments section, below, or contact me privately here.
As always, have a wonderful week with your family,
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