Parenting Coach

Practical ideas for social, emotional and behavioral challenges

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Talk about tactile issues.

What you can do

If your child reacts in a major way to minor touches, such as getting bumped in line or tapped on the shoulder, you might be seeing sensory processing issues. These can explain why some kids behave so defensively.

Talk with your child’s teachers. See if they can come up with tasks for him that require him to leave class a little early. This will help cut down on jostling in the hallway.

Avoid light touches. Firmer is better. Make sure family members understand they need to ask before touching your child.

What you can say

“Mrs. Steinberg, I wanted to let you know that Jacob is very sensitive to touch. I think the term that experts use is tactile defensive. If someone touches him unexpectedly, it makes him very uncomfortable and he may react physically.”

“It might look like aggression, but it’s really a sensory processing issue. With that in mind, would it be possible for you to create reasons for him to be in the front or back of the line? If you can give him a job so that he can leave a little early and avoid crowded hallways, that would also be very helpful.”

Why this will help

If your child has sensory processing issues, it’s important for teachers and family members to understand tactile defensiveness and support his needs.

Teachers can make the school environment as comfortable as possible for your child. This can help him avoid overreactions that will have a negative effect on his peer relationships or get him in trouble.

Learn more about sensory processing issues.

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