If your child has tactile hypersensitivities, chances are they struggle with some area of getting dressed or wearing certain clothes.
Today on All Things Sensory, we’re going to talk specifically about how tactile processing affects getting dressed. Our bodies and brains are designed to filter out the unnecessary input of the feeling of wearing clothes, but for people who don’t have a well-modulated tactile system, they can’t filter it out.
Today we break down the signs that your child may be struggling with tactile processing and then explain how this issue can present itself when it comes to getting dressed. We chat about how to know when to be flexible and when to address these challenges. Tuning in you’ll hear about heavy work, proprioceptive input, messy play, and other activities that you can do to help kids with tactile hypersensitivities, as well as specific activities and strategies for kids who struggle specifically with dressing!
An introduction to today’s episode on how tactile processing affects getting dressed.
An explanation for new listeners on what hypersensitivity is and how it affects people.
How children with tactile processing challenges may feel physical pain with certain textures.
Challenges that can be caused by an unintegrated spinal Galant reflex.
Signs that your child struggles with tactile processing.
Some of the challenges children like this may face with getting dressed.
The importance of addressing these challenges when they impact one’s ability to get through the day with ease or cause infants to skip developmental milestones.
When you need to address it and when you should be flexible and accommodating.
Activities that can help your child with tactile processing and modulation, such as heavy work, proprioceptive input, and messy play.
More specific activities and strategies for kids who struggle with dressing.
Letting them pick up their own clothes, wearing them inside out, and other tips to help you overcome the challenge of getting dressed.
Vibration as a great strategy for desensitization and how the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol may help.
Other useful resources such as The Listening Program ® by Advanced Brain Technologies and the Harkla course on primitive reflex integration.
“It’s important to remember that children with tactile processing challenges truly feel pain with certain textures, like actual physical pain. It doesn’t make sense to those of us who don’t struggle with tactile processing but it is real for them.” — All Things Sensory[02:19]
“For people who don’t have a well-modulated tactile system, they can’t filter out that input, that feeling of their clothes, that’s all they can think about, — they’re constantly in that fight or flight mode of 'My clothing is bothering me.’” — All Things Sensory[03:21]
“You have to identify the ‘why’, why are they struggling with it? Is it the type of clothing, like what the clothing is made out of? Is it the seams or the tags? Does looser fitting clothing bother the child or does tighter fitting clothing bother them?” — All Things Sensory[13:35]
“Just remember that our tactile system is constantly working. It is constantly on, it’s constantly processing and modulating the world around us and it’s a big sensory system. You’ve got a lot of skin on your body!” — All Things Sensory[19:05]
Harkla Resources — discount code “sensory”
[0:00:01.4] RH: Hey there, I’m Rachel.
[0:00:03.1] JH: And I’m Jessica and this is All Things Sensory by Harkla. Together, we’re on a mission to help children, families, therapists, and educators live happy and healthy lives.
[0:00:12.2] RH: We dive into all things sensory, special needs, occupational therapy, parenting, self-care, and so much more. In each episode, we share raw, honest, fun ideas, and strategies for everyone to implement into daily life.
[0:00:24.6] JH: Thank you so much for joining us.
[0:00:32.0] RH: What is up everyone? Thank you for tuning in today, we are Rachel and Jessica from All Things Sensory by Harkla and today is episode 171. What are we talking about, Jess?
[0:00:44.9] JH: Okay, we’re talking about the tactile system and how it relates to getting dressed. Now, we do have an episode on tactile processing, I believe it’s called The Power of Touch and that’s episode 33. You should definitely listen to that episode, but today we’re going to talk specifically about getting dressed and how getting dressed or how tactile processing affects getting dressed.
[0:01:12.9] RH: Yeah, it’s a question that we get pretty often and where that episode 33 is really helpful, to understand the tactile system overview, we wanted to do an episode that really broke down the connection between the tactile system and the kiddos struggling with wearing clothes, different clothing textures, getting dressed, that ATL component.
[0:01:36.0] JH: Yeah, because there’s a lot that goes into getting dressed, motor planning, body awareness but it’s also partially related to the tactile system and so if your child has tactile hypersensitivities chances are, they’re probably going to struggle in some area of getting dressed wearing certain clothes, that kind of thing.
[0:01:57.5] RH: Yup, if you're a new listener, that hypersensitivity means that they are over sensitive to tactile input, which means they’re very sensitive, they’re going to have an over reaction to feelings and textures and touch, more so than a person who modulates or processes that input appropriately.
[0:02:19.3] JH: Right, it’s important to remember that children with tactile processing challenges truly feel pain with certain textures like actual physical pain, it doesn’t make sense to those of us who don’t struggle with tactile processing but it is real for them.
[0:02:36.7] RH: What is so interesting to me is our body is designed – we’ll go into this a little bit more but just to be aware, our body and brain are designed to filter out this unnecessary input constantly, 24/7 all day long. Right now, Jess, we’re wearing clothes.
[0:02:58.2] JH: Are we though?
[0:02:58.8] RH: That sounded weird. Okay, we’re wearing clothes right now, we’re not thinking about it, right? We’re not thinking about how tight they are or the fact that they’re itching the tag in the back, maybe you –
[0:03:11.1] JH: I was just trying to feel, I don’t have a tag on this shirt.
[0:03:12.3] RH: I don’t either, mine’s tag-less.
[0:03:13.7] JH:I have a tag on my pants though and I don’t notice it.
[0:03:17.6] RH: Yeah, we’re not thinking about that consciously but which is good, that’s how it’s supposed to be but for people who don’t have a well-modulated tactile system, they can’t filter out that input, that feeling of their clothes, that’s all they can think about, they can’t focus on their school work, they can’t focus on listening to this podcast because they’re constantly in that fight or flight mode of “My clothing is bothering me, I can’t stop thinking about it, I can’t focus on anything else” and that’s when they have an issue.
[0:03:47.7] JH: Now, this is also going to have an effect on children who have a retained spinal galant reflex because any stimulation to the back, specifically the lower back is going to cause that reflex to react. If your child has an unintegrated spinal galant reflex, then loose clothing that moves and tickles their back is going to cause them to have challenges.
[0:04:17.0] RH: Yes, I’m glad you brought that up. Let’s talk about how do you know if your child struggles with tactile processing overall?
[0:04:26.1] JH: Okay, the first one is, your child does not like to be touched, maybe as an infant, they did not like to be held.
[0:04:33.1] RH: Or maybe they only were calm when they were being held or being touched, yeah. Yeah, they don’t like to get messy.
[0:04:42.5] JH: Or they seek out getting messy.
[0:04:45.3] RH: Too much, yes.
[0:04:46.9] JH: They seek out too much of that tactile input.
[0:04:49.5] RH: They might also be a picky eater because we do have those tactile receptors in our mouth believe it or not. Kiddos who are sensitive to different textures orally, they are most likely going to be considered a picky eater.
[0:05:03.6] JH: Maybe they refuse to crawl or walk on certain surfaces or different types of grass or dirt.
[0:05:13.0] RH: Yeah, I’ll give you a real-life example because this is the season that I’m in right now. Trip does not like – Trip’s 11 months old when we’re recording this. He does not love to crawl on grass or rocks or hard floors but once he modulates the input, he will get down and he will crawl. Initially, he’s bear crawling and then he either gets tired and he wants to just crawl or he’s like, “Oh okay, I can handle this input” and he’ll crawl normally in that normal quad crawl.
[0:05:42.7] JH: Yeah, for a child who struggles with tactile processing, they’re not going to be able to do that.
[0:05:48.4] RH: Or maybe if they’re trying to crawl on the grass and Trip’s age, they’ll just get up and it will motivate them to walk faster and they’ll just try to stand up and avoid it or they’ll just sit there and cry.
[0:06:00.9] JH: Often times, the child who maybe skips crawling could be related to their tactile system.
[0:06:06.8] RH: It’s all connected.
[0:06:08.0] JH: It is all connected, it is true. Let’s move on.
[0:06:10.3] RH: They might also struggle at bed time because they have that feeling of the sheets and the blankets that they can’t tune out, it’s uncomfortable to them, whether it’s the light touch, I know I can’t sleep with just like a sheet on in the summer. I have to have like heavy blankets on.
[0:06:27.3] JH: That weighted blanket comes in handy.
[0:06:29.2] RH: Sure does.
[0:06:29.8] JH: Then last but not least, challenges with getting dressed. Refusing specific clothing items, maybe they will only wear one shirt or one specific pair of pants, even if those clothing items are dirty, it doesn’t matter. That’s the only ones they’ll wear.
[0:06:48.4] RH: I think so much of this comes into play as adults, right? Let’s talk about us, we have preferences, kids have preferences.
[0:06:56.5] JH: True.
[0:06:58.2] RH: We should be flexible, we should be able to be flexible, it’s when these challenges impact our ability to get through our day with ease, that it really is, it needs to be addressed.
[0:07:09.9] JH: When it’s causing infants to skip developmental milestones that are important for development and primitive reflex integration so yeah, when it causes issues on a consistent basis.
[0:07:24.5] RH: Yeah, because that’s a question that we get often, you know? My kiddo will only wear certain type of underwear or they’ll only wear their socks turned inside-out. Well, are there any other challenges? If they have to wear their socks the right side, will it ruin their entire day?
[0:07:36.9] JH: Exactly. Does it really matter or is it only because it feels weird to you? That’s a question you ask yourself. I think about my kid and this whole summer, he’s been – it was not really a fight but I had to convince him to wear shorts when it was a hundred degrees out because he just wanted to wear his jeans because he likes how he looks in jeans.
[0:08:02.2] RH: Bless his heart.
[0:08:03.1] JH: I have to take it back and be like, “Okay, is this an issue for me? Especially if we’re just inside where it’s not hundred degrees and he’s not going to get super sweaty and gross? But when we’re outside, yeah, you should wear shorts because it’s really hot out.” Ask yourself why is it an issue? It’s because it’s your own preference then you got to get rid of that.
[0:08:25.1] JH: Yup.
[0:08:25.7] RH: I mean, you don’t have to get rid of it, you have to –
[0:08:28.2] RH: Is it a big problem or little problem?
[0:08:30.0] JH: What size a problem is it really here? Thank you.
[0:08:32.8] RH: Okay, let’s move on. Let’s talk about, if your child struggles with tactile processing and modulation, what activities can you do to help them?
[0:08:43.0] JH: First, you can go and listen to episode 33. Just saying.
[0:08:46.6] RH: Then you should probably listen to our episode on proprioceptive input.
[0:08:50.5] JH: Yup, because you want more heavy work, more proprioceptive input for these kids.
[0:08:56.4] RH: In addition, you want more messy play, so that means doing crafts that involve getting their hands covered in glue or mixing slime or playing with Orbeez or crinkling wet paper or playing in a sensory bin, dirt.
[0:09:12.5] JH: All of them.
[0:09:14.0] RH: Just let your kiddo be messy and if they don’t, they don’t like to, start slow, follow their lead, model, use it down and play with them, have fun, just take it slow.
[0:09:26.1] RH: We just want to take a minute and talk to you about our company Harkla. Our mission at Harkla is to help those with special needs live happy, healthy lives. Not only do we accomplish this through the podcast but we also have therapy products, easy to follow digital courses ,and the Harkla Sensory Club, to try to bring holistic care to you and your family.
[0:09:44.4] JH: Listeners of the All Things Sensory Podcast get 10 percent off their first purchase at Harkla with the discount code “sensory.” We’d recommend checking out some of our bestsellers like the compression sensory swing, weighted blankets, or our course on sensory diets.
[0:09:59.5] RH: Here’s the best part, one percent of each sale gets donated to the University of Washington Autism Center to support autism research and fund scholarships to families in need to receive in-clinic therapy for their child.
[0:10:11.6] JH: Learn more about Harkla and all we have to offer at harkla.co, that’s harkla.co and don’t forget to use the discount code “sensory” to get 10 percent off your first purchase. That’s “sensory” for 10 percent off.
[0:10:32.5] RH:And the best part is all Harkla orders come with a lifetime guarantee and free shipping.
[0:10:39.7] JH: You really can’t beat that.
[0:10:40.8] RH: No.
[0:10:42.2] JH: No, you can’t. Okay, let’s go back to the show.
[0:10:45.4] JH: For a kiddo who is really adverse to getting their hands messy, you can always start by providing them with other ways and help them with the material, so they can wear gloves or they could use a plastic bag over their hand, maybe they use a spoon to stir, maybe you use like a – you can set this up though too. Maybe use a really small spoon so their hand gets really close to the mixture as they are stirring and maybe it gets a little bit on their hand and then they have the option to wash it off and they feel comfortable.
[0:11:13.5] RH: Maybe you are mixing with a spoon for them and you accidentally on purpose drop the spoon into the mixture and you need their help to save the spoon?
[0:11:23.3] JH: That is my favorite thing. It is like sabotage, you’re sabotaging the activity to help this child interact with the messy play.
[0:11:32.5] RH: Maybe it is not even a spoon you drop, maybe it is their car, their favorite car. “You have to rescue that car from the Orbeez, oh no!”
[0:11:39.3] JH: That voice is my favorite.
[0:11:41.9] RH: You’re welcome.
[0:11:43.3] JH: That’s a really good one too actually is to do like a toy wash, so you get your toys all messy in mud or shaving cream and then you have to give them a bath and wash them off. That could be a really fun messy play activity.
[0:11:54.2] RH: Yes, another one that I love is having the kiddo help clean up whether it’s meal time, an activity, anything and I will give you a specific example of the kiddo that I was working with, who we were working on feeding and the kiddo is a picky eater because they struggle with tactile processing like we said it is all connected, but the kiddo didn’t eat anything, didn’t touch anything until I said it was time to clean up and they touched it all and threw it in the garbage or put it in the sink and I was like, “That’s a win.” That’s a win in my book.
[0:12:25.5] JH: Yeah and then take it even farther from there and talk about the fact that they were able to touch it without anything bad happening.
[0:12:33.5] RH: Yes, they survived.
[0:12:34.8] JH: Bring it calmly to their attention, don’t make them feel bad about it. Just say like, “Oh, I like how you picked it up to put it in the trash. Nothing bad happened. That was super easy.”
[0:12:44.1] RH: Yeah, how does it feel? What did you notice?
[0:12:46.1] JH: Yeah.
[0:12:46.5] RH: You’re still breathing? No, I’m just kidding.
[0:12:49.3] JH: I mean you can if you have a really good play and interaction with the kid. Absolutely, make it into a game.
[0:12:54.0] RH: Yes, so more clean up, put the dishes in the dish washer, put them in the sink, put them in the trash, scrape the plates, just interact with cleaning up at meal time.
[0:13:04.4] JH: I mean that is just an overall basic life skill that we should be teaching our children anyway.
[0:13:09.0] RH: That is true. We went there.
[0:13:12.7] JH: Being really assertive today, don’t take offense. This is my personal opinion.
[0:13:18.7] RH: Okay, let’s talk about more specific activities and strategies and awareness for kiddos who struggle specifically with dressing if it is related to tactile processing.
[0:13:32.9] JH: We say this every single time but you have to identify the why, why are they struggling with it. Is it the type of clothing like what the clothing is made out of? Is it the seams or the tags? Does looser fitting clothing bother the child or does tighter fitting clothing bother them?
[0:13:57.2] RH: Yes, so you really have to put those sensory goggles on and recognize what the underlying cause is, what the underlying challenge is, and then we’re going to adjust accordingly. Purchase specific clothing that has textures that they prefer. If they like cotton, if they like knit, if they like the stretchy clothes, the loose clothes.
[0:14:19.0] JH: Yeah, I think that goes back to letting them wear their socks inside the house as well, you know? It goes back to letting the child be in charge because they have preferences.
[0:14:32.2] RH: To go along with that, let them pick up their own clothes. If they are going to throw a fit because you picked out this super cute overall set and it’s really itchy and scratchy say, “That’s okay I thought it was cute but maybe next time you can go to the store with me and you can help me pick out the clothes.”
[0:14:47.0] JH: That’s really good especially if your child gets a little bit older and if they are able to express their preferences to you, take them with you so that they can choose what they are going to be comfortable in.
[0:15:01.2] RH: Okay, get used to turning clothes inside out to avoid seams. Unfortunately, all clothes aren’t made seamless and they all aren’t sensory friendly. It was like that sports bra that I got from Lulu Lemon.
[0:15:18.5] JH: I saw your story and yeah, you really liked it.
[0:15:21.1] RH: I loved it, it’s super comfy except for the fact that the seams are just so bothersome.
[0:15:28.8] JH: It’s a bummer.
[0:15:30.1] RH: It is.
[0:15:30.5] JH: But it happens and then, if you do have clothing that your child can tolerate but the tags drive them crazy, cut the tags off.
[0:15:40.2] RH: Or buy tag-less clothing. Okay, you can also try purchasing clothes that are tighter. Maybe a size too small or specifically purchased compression clothing and if you can get a compression garment that goes down over their trunk, over their hips that will be better for them.
[0:16:00.5] JH: I know that one is a tricky one because in the past we recommended swim shirts that are a couple sizes too small to provide that compression but then the problem is they’re too short and they don’t cover the entire trunk or down to the hips and so it doesn’t really provide good compression.
[0:16:21.1] RH: I like the shirts from SmartKnitKids, those ones are good. You can find those on Amazon but if, on the flipside, if the tight clothes bother them, purchase some clothes that are loser, so maybe a size too big.
[0:16:34.9] JH: Easy-peasy. Vibration is a really great strategy for desensitization. A lot of kids with tactile hypersensitivity might not enjoy vibration initially because it’s a lot of input.
[0:16:50.6] RH: Another thing that you can try is to find a therapist trained in the brushing protocol. The Will Gardner brushing protocol are the deep pressure proprioceptive touch protocol, this is something that you don’t want to just Google and follow the instructions or the demonstration on YouTube because it is very specific. I have seen a lot of different YouTube videos showing and demonstrating how to do it that just aren’t correct. They aren’t the way that I was trained and that’s scares me.
[0:17:18.0] JH: That one is a tough one but search around, ask around, find a therapist who is trained in it because the brushing protocol is designed for children who have tactile processing challenges.
[0:17:31.5] RH: Yep. Okay, another one of our favorites is the listening program.
[0:17:34.9] JH: We talk about these two things all the time.
[0:17:37.9] RH: We do. Now, if people would implement them consistently.
[0:17:41.7] JH: Which we know you are. We’re not saying you don’t totally do right?
[0:17:45.0] RH: No, yeah you do. There’s the results are exponential. It’s like me doing the listening program. You know I am trying to do it consistently every day.
[0:17:54.7] JH: It’s hard, life gets in the way.
[0:17:56.4] RH: It is, you got to set a reminder on your phone.
[0:17:58.6] JH: Yep, where you still track but yeah, the listening program from Advance Brain Technologies was designed for individuals who are hypersensitive to sensory input so it’s perfect.
[0:18:10.4] RH: Yep. Okay, integrate those retained reflexes that are causing sensory overload, anxiety, hypersensitivity, like Jessica mentioned, that spinal galant reflex is a big one that we see, so work on integrating that one. If you need some ideas, we do have a course on primitive reflex integration with some functional activities to do to help integrate that reflex as well as others.
[0:18:36.1] JH: Yep and then you can get – we talked about compression clothing but compression clothing can also be worn under regular clothes so that maybe you could just get a plain white compression shirt and then your child can also wear their favorite t-shirt over it.
[0:18:54.5] RH: Yep, so there it is in a nutshell, tactile processing, dressing skills, some ideas for you to take away. Just remember that our tactile system is constantly working. It is constantly on, it’s constantly processing and modulating the world around us and it’s a big sensory system. Well, you got a lot of skin on your body.
[0:19:17.8] JH: You do and when the messages from your skin are telling your brain to go into fight or flight because the clothing is rubbing you wrong on your skin, we know that something isn’t working right and you need to address it.
[0:19:34.3] RH: So there you go. I think that’s all.
[0:19:36.3] JH: I think that’s all. I hope you guys aren’t too offended by me telling you what to do.
[0:19:39.9] RH: It is a podcast, that’s our job is to tell you what to do. No, our job is to recommend what you should do.
[0:19:47.2] JH: There you go.
[0:19:47.9] RH: Yeah that –
[0:19:49.0] JH: Take it or leave it.
[0:19:50.1] RH: You guys have listened to us long enough, you know our sense of humor.
[0:19:53.4] JH: I hope so.
[0:19:55.0] RH: Yeah, me too.
[0:19:56.3] JH: Leave us a review and let us know.
[0:19:58.2] RH: All right, thanks for listening. We love you. Okay, bye.
[0:20:02.3] JH: Okay, we’ll see you next week. Talk to you, we’ll talk to you next week.
[0:20:05.1] RH: We won’t see you.
[0:20:05.6] JH: No, we’ll talk to you.
[0:20:06.0] RH: We’ll see you on Instagram though, make sure you are following along @allthingssensorypodcast and @harkla_family.
[END OF DISCUSSION]
[0:20:16.5] RH: Thank you so much for listening to All Things Sensory by Harkla. If you want more information on anything we mentioned in the show, head over to harkla.co/podcast to get all of the shownotes.
[0:20:27.3] JH: We always have the show notes and links plus full transcripts to make following along as easy as possible for everyone. If you have follow-up questions, the best place to ask those is in the comments on the show notes or message us on our Instagram account, which is @harkla_family. If you just search Harkla, you’ll find us.
[0:20:46.8] RH: Like we mentioned before, our podcast listeners get 10 percent off of their first order at Harkla, whether it is for one of our digital courses, one of our sensory swings, the discount code “sensory” will save you 10 percent. That code is “sensory.” Head over to harkla.co/sensory to use that code right now so you don’t forget.
[0:21:09.4] JH: We’re so excited to work together to help create confident kids all over the world and work towards a more happier healthier life.
[0:21:16.7] RH: All right, we’ll talk to you guys next week.
[0:21:20.9] JH: Just a friendly reminder: This is general information related to occupational therapy, pediatrics, and sensory integration. We do not know you or your child, therefore we do not know any specific needs. Therefore, you should always refer back to your pediatrician and occupational therapist for more information.
BORING, BUT NECESSARY LEGAL DISCLAIMERS
While we make every effort to share correct information, we are still learning. We will double check all of our facts but realize that medicine is a constantly changing science and art. One doctor / therapist may have a different way of doing things from another. We are simply presenting our views and opinions on how to address common sensory challenges, health related difficulties and what we have found to be beneficial that will be as evidenced based as possible. By listening to this podcast, you agree not to use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or your children. Consult your child’s pediatrician/ therapist for any medical issues that he or she may be having. This entire disclaimer also applies to any guests or contributors to the podcast. Under no circumstances shall Rachel Harrington, Harkla, Jessica Hill, or any guests or contributors to the podcast, as well as any employees, associates, or affiliates of Harkla, be responsible for damages arising from use of the podcast.
Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.
This podcast should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever, including but not limited to establishing “standard of care” in a legal sense or as a basis for expert witness testimony. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast.
Comments will be approved before showing up.