How to cope with sensitivity to touch and textures

By Amanda Morin

People with sensory processing issues can be over- or undersensitive to touch or textures. You might hear this called tactile sensitivity. It can make everything from eating to showering a challenge.

When people are sensitive to touch, it’s important to set boundaries and be open about triggers.

For example, it’s easy to feel rejected if your loved one doesn’t like hugging or other shows of affection. You might have to find a different “in” or creative way to be affectionate. A firm squeeze on the shoulder or a “pinky promise” could be your way to say “I love you.”

With kids, model how to set boundaries: “I’m not a big hugger, but I want you to know I’m so glad to see you!” Let them take the lead, too. Instead of wiping smudges off kids’ faces, have them do it themselves. You may need to talk younger kids through fixing it: “You have chocolate on your chin. You can use a wet washcloth to wipe it off.”

When people are undersensitive to touch, heavy work can help them calm their body. That means doing things that use muscles to push, pull, climb, carry, or lift. Chores like vacuuming and activities like riding a bike, carrying groceries, and even climbing playground equipment are all examples of heavy work.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.