I am sure there are some of you reading this who are wondering what tactile defensiveness is. It is a term used to describe someone very sensitive to touch. As a result, someone who experiences tactile defensiveness is much more sensitive to touch than usual.
Our son, who is 14 years old, has been diagnosed with tactile defensiveness. He received his diagnosis when he was 18 months old. As parents, we became concerned that he wasn’t walking or trying to walk. It also concerned us that he would pull his feet up to avoid standing when we would try and have him stand up on our laps. Also, when we would try and have him stand up on the ground, he would do the same thing. He would never let the bottom of his feet touch anything and do everything he could to avoid it!
My husband and I asked our family doctor about our concerns, and he referred us to a physical therapist. When we went to the physical therapist, our son was diagnosed five minutes into our appointment. It was extremely quick. It surprised me, but the therapist immediately knew our son’s diagnosis as he watched our son’s behavior! Our son avoided physical contact because of how things felt on his skin. The therapist explained it like this to me. He said that when you cut your fingernails too short, the skin under the nail gets exposed, and it feels weird. He said that is the feeling my son has all over his body.
After I learned what it was, we realized that there were signs of it from the day he was born. He would always cry whenever we would change his diaper. He would also cry and scream whenever we bathed him, and I would rub lotion on him. He hated that.
He also didn’t like to touch things with his hands. He didn’t want to touch anything slimy or gooey. We would have him play with shaving cream or pudding with his fingers. He hated this and didn’t do very well with this one.
He was never a great eater either. When he got a little older, maybe age two or two and a half, we realized that he had tactile defensiveness in his mouth. He hated baby food. He hated fruit or veggies. He liked more solid things, like chicken nuggets or quesadillas. His eating to this day, ten years later, is still our biggest challenge. His list of foods that he will eat is minimal. And when he does eat, he picks at things and puts a small amount of food in his mouth. Eating for him is a chore. I am always trying to find something that he will eat, and I get frustrated when he doesn’t like most things I make.
Tactile defensiveness is something our son will have to deal with his entire life. He has just learned to live with most of the things he doesn’t like to touch. Some things will always be a challenge for him, mainly his eating. Now that he is getting older, there are just simple things that you wouldn’t think about, like face wash. Just washing his face is a struggle. We quickly learned that he could not use the foaming face wash! There are just so many tiny things that pop up as he gets older that we work through. He is a great kid and works through everything so well.
So, where are all my people out there who have someone with tactile defensiveness in their lives? I would love to hear from you.