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How to Decrease Tactile Defensiveness in Children with Sensory Processing Disorder

Tactile defensiveness can make daily activities, such as taking a bath or sleeping, exercises in frustration for both parents and kids. Unfortunately, for children with sensory processing disorders, common types of touches are under- or overwhelming when compared to their peers. However, there is some evidence that certain techniques can help kids temper their defensive or aversive reactions to everyday stimuli, which can help them learn to enjoy regular activities.

Deep Pressure and Weighted Products

Light touches often bother children with sensory processing disorders, but firm touches can help a child learn to accept touch. Some children respond well to daily deep pressure massage with unscented lotion. Others prefer firm pressure administered by stretchy clothing, specially made pressure vests or ace bandages worn over the clothes. The key to finding what works is to try one product or treatment at a time for several weeks before determining if it works for that child.

Weighted products work similarly to deep pressure massage and compression products. The most common weighted product is a weighted blanket, which helps a child with a sensory processing disorder rest by applying steady pressure while the child is asleep. For small children, parents should start with approximately five pounds, while older children may need approximately eight pounds for effective treatment. Weighted vests that are 10 percent of the child's weight can provide comfort when the child is mobile.

Wilbarger Brush Protocol

Although there is only limited research into this technique, many parents of kids with sensory processing disorders report success using the Wilbarger Brush Protocol to treat their kids. The Wilbarger Protocol works by using a soft-bristled brush to apply firm pressure on a child's body. The person administering the treatment starts with the arms and works his way down to the feet. The face, chest and hands do not receive treatment because these areas are too sensitive. This process should take approximately two to three minutes. After brushing, the child then receives joint compressions on certain areas of the body.

People who use the Wilbarger Protocol must commit to treatment every two hours when the child is awake. After a couple of weeks, parents can consult with the therapist who showed them how to administer the technique to determine if they need to alter the schedule.

Help for Tactile Defensiveness

While deep pressure, weighted products, and the Wilbarger Protocol may help kids with tactile defensiveness, it's important that parents coordinate their efforts with a professional who can demonstrate proper techniques, guide parents towards choosing the most effective products and modify treatment plans so regular progress is achieved.

If you suspect your child has a Processing Disorder or has already been diagnosed with a Processing Disorder, contact us online or find a center near you to learn more about how the Brain Balance Program can help.

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