Brushing Technique for Sensory Tactile Defensiveness
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For children who struggle with Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD), Autism, ADHD or if they are sensitive to touch, tactile objects, they chew on their pencils and toys or are constantly fidgeting, they may need some additional sensory input to help stabilize their sensory systems. Remember, the reason children often struggle with sensory issues is because there is a disconnect in their brain or “traffic jam” that often causes the nervous system to react strongly to touch. This could be why some children dislike hugs from family members, tags in their clothing, sleeves on their shirts, need weighted items like blankets or vests, or hate zippers and buttons.
Because children can be sensitive to these types of tactile objects or have sensory defensiveness, it can cause them to be distracted in school, prevents them from learning and can even create gaps in their learning ability due to how their sensory-motor systems are developing. We usually close those gaps with sensory-motor activities, deep pressure exercises, and rapid vestibular movement. The exercises, like you see here, are very beneficial in providing children with the sensory input they need and are extremely effective.
However, there is another option available. The method of using a brushing technique can also help a child with moderate to severe tactile defensiveness. It can be time consuming and must be done correctly to produce true results. Some children may have trouble with brushing techniques at first because of their tactile sensitivities, but over time, it can provide them with the deep pressure needed to calm their sensory systems. It can also reduce anxiety, decrease fidgeting and improve attention and focus in the classroom.
What Not to Do
Before you begin the brushing technique, it is important to understand a few pointers of what not to do with your child. Negative consequences could follow if the technique is not performed correctly. Please avoid the following:
- Do not brush the face, chest or stomach. These are all sensitive areas of the body that could create pain or adverse reactions.
- Do not let your child administer the brushing technique to their own skin unless they are old enough and properly trained.
- Do not continue treatments if it is too much for the child and if they cannot tolerate it. We don’t want to force it on the child because it could create the opposite reaction we want to correct.
- Do not try at home if you don’t feel confident in the brushing method. Trying the wrong method at home could cause even more tactile defensiveness.
How to try the brushing technique at home
Now that you know what to avoid before starting the brushing method, let’s talk about what methods you can try at home. Remember, the brushing technique is most effective when combined with crossing the midline activities and rapid vestibular movement (jumping, swinging, scooters, bouncing, crash pads, etc.). You can also purchase sensory toys for your child to go along with the brushing to help with fidgeting and chewing.
Here’s how to get started with brushing techniques and methods. First, you will need to purchase a special sensory brush or therapy brush (not just any brush will work). They aren’t very expensive and you can buy them in a pack as you see here or below.
Now you can begin using the following techniques:
- Brushing therapy is recommended every two hours while they child is awake. This may seem like a large time commitment, but if not done correctly, it could cause an adverse reaction to your child’s nervous system that could trigger an even worse tactile problem.
- Try deep pressure massaging with the brush for at least two weeks to see if you notice any progress with your child.
- Administer deep pressure brushing starting from the top of the body (back and arms) down to the bottom of the body (legs and feet).
- When you begin with the arms and legs brush from bottom to top (for example, palm to forearm and ankle to calve). For all techniques on each body part, click here.
- You can brush over clothing if your child feels more comfortable or if you are working with a student that is not your child.
- Take your time and do not move too quickly through the process.
- Revaluate progress after two weeks and adjust as necessary.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs