Normal Development of Tactile System

Tactile system starts developing since 5th week of pregnancy, supports child to influence recognise different types of touch sensations as he grows. It has very important on newborn for the rest of his life. Functionally, this system supports in two important aspects, sucking and establishing emotional security.

Sucking: Touch sensations comforts baby in sucking, chewing and swallowing food. Children who have difficulties in sucking, may face challenges in eating different textures of food later in their lives. In other words, they might have oral hypersensitiveness (oral defensiveness). 

It is being often mentioned by mothers of special needs children, “Oh my son is picky eater” or “he doesn’t eat very well”. Signs of oral defensiveness include disliking for tooth brushing, face washing or avoidance of mixed textured food.

Emotional Security: It has major role every newborn’s life since it establishes
expressive protection, trust and acquaintance with mother or caregiver. After delivery, child’s first bodily contact with his mother or caretaker has great influence on child’s body system for rest of his life. 

After contact, the brain should interpret ate the sensations correctly and appropriately in order to form first emotional attachment. Sometimes, it is also called as mother-infant bond. This bond is very essential for physical and mental development of baby. This bonding later helps in developing body image and body awareness. It also provides sense of himself as physical body. 

Children whose tactile system and brain does not respond correctly might not be able to establish emotional attachment to their mother or caregiver in later life also. Due to poor bond, child has tactile defensiveness always have emotional insecurity, instability, frustration and behavioural issues in later life. These kids need a lot of love care, affection from parental side in all the spheres of life. They require expressive support, motivation, positive reinforcement and supportive strategies to accomplish given task and control aggression or antisocial behaviours.

An infant or toddler may have too much of irritation, distress and painful sensations while tethering phase or child’s nasal dryness can lead to nose itching and distressful behaviour are some of examples of how active is out tactile system since early hood.

Room temperature should be appropriate for a child (and adults) while sleeping otherwise even the deep sleep can be ruined if it’s too hot or cold. The tactile system is irreplaceable in developing emotional security, social skills as well as academic learning.

We receive sensory information from our tactile system through our skin (from head to toe) to gauge all the sensations such as temperature, vibration, pressure, light touch and pain (pinch and itching).

Now, consider what will happen if you do not feel any of above sensations correctly?

The world can be a very difficult place to live in such as case!

Life will be so much difficult if we have issues in doing any of following: -

  • Judging if water is too hot or cold while taking shower or bath
  • Analysing if we have any coins in his pocket or not without looking
  • Judging if room temperature is correctly regulated (might be too hot or cold)
  • If we have got any pain due to injury
  • wouldn’t be able to do even handshake properly which needs deep pressure

Now, that’s the huge challenge for Sensory Processing Disorder kids. They face many problems while carrying out simple daily tasks. Since their touch system does not function, the way it should, therefore (touch) tactile hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity is a prominent feature in them. A child can have either one or both sensitivities. The third category is Poor Tactile perception and Discrimination which we will be discussing in our next post J !

Well, there is no shortage of resources, to know more about Tactile system here are some of great resources: