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Touch Processing

Paediatric Occupational Therapy
Advice and Information for Parent / Carers

For some children who are ‘Sensory Sensitive’ touching objects that are wet, sticky or slimy is a sensation that feels painful and distressing to them. By providing lots of sensory input that involves deep pressure we can calm the nervous system and override that sensitivity which can then allow us to gradually increase the child’s tolerance to different textures.

Activities that involve deep pressure (proprioception) to the joints and muscles are generally calming for the child and can assist the child to participate in activities. A structured programme that is done several times each day may help to provide some calming input that will facilitate more active participation in class for the next hour or two. Use any of the proprioceptive strategies listed on the body awareness information sheet for 10 minutes prior to introducing messy play or a touch experience the child is likely to find distressing. This will help calm your child and enable them to tolerate unpleasant sensory experiences better.

Before introducing a new texture:

  • Spend 10 minutes doing proprioceptive activities
  • Use a piece of soft fabric (e.g. velvet) and rub your child’s hands and arms (always use firm pressure)
  • Massage the child’s hand and arms using a vibrating toy.
  • Scrub the palm of the child’s hands using a coarse fabric or soft brush
  • Fidget toys that can be squeezed in the hands (rubber balls, Koosh balls)
  • Give the child a microwaveable wheat or cherry stone bag to drape across his shoulders or lap
  • Introducing New Textures:
  • Begin by introducing dry textures first and working up the levels to harder to tolerate sensations:
  • Level 1: strips of paper, dried lentils, uncooked rice.
  • Level 2: sand, flour, salt
  • Level 3: Play dough, cooked spaghetti
  • Level 4: Damp sand, cooked spaghetti with a little oil mixed through
  • Level 5: Shaving foam, soap, paint

If the child does not want to touch the texture, place a small amount on the table in front on him, demonstrate moving it about, picking up small pieces etc

Try hiding fun and motivating toys inside the texture (partly cover initially so the child can get the toy without having to get her hands too dirty)

Be guided by the child; never force the child to touch something they are reluctant to touch.

Do not move onto a new texture until the child is willing to explore the current level of textures

Always praise the child for any attempt to touch or go near the texture.

Do not use any activities that you think would be detrimental to your child


The information sheets presented on this site were developed by Occupational Therapists primarily for use as a pre-referral resource. 

The website accept no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any activity ideas or treatment regimen detailed in the information sheets.

Last Updated: 10 June 2015