Tactile Sensory Functions

The Tactile Sensory Function or ‘Sense of Touch’ is made up of 4 different receptors in your skin that sense things like texture, temperature, pressure etc. This information is then sent to the brain for processing. Sometimes the area receiving the information is under or over active.

If the function is weak, the child might not feel their body as well. These are the kids that act like nothing ever hurts them. They run around with no jacket in 30 degree weather. They might also do things to themselves that seem painful to others, like shoving things up their nose or walking across jagged ground without flinching.

If the function is overactive, they might complain about little things that would not normally bother a kid, like their sock being a little crooked in their shoe, or sweaters being ‘too scratchy’. They may even be severe enough to have a Sensory Processing Disorder

Cute little girl petting and feeding a goat at petting zoo. Child playing with a farm animal on sunny summer day. Kids interacting with animals.


Under Active Tactile Function Symptoms

  • Compulsive need to touch people and textures
  • Doesn’t respect others personal space
  • High pain tolerance
  • Seems like a thrill seeker
  • Clumsy or uncoordinated
  • Hurts pets or other children
  • Low Confidence
  • Sensory Processing Disorder

Overactive Tactile Function Symptoms

  • Poor Balance
  • Avoids human contact
  • Complains about clothing
  • Doesn’t like crowds
  • Doesn’t like feet off the ground
  • Anxiety
  • Sensory Processing Disorder

Tactile Sensory tests

Guess the shape (palm of hand)

Print the shape pages and get a Q Tip. Choose a page to work on according to their ability. Stay on the same page each time you work with them until they are accurate enough  to move to the next page.

Put the page in front of the child. Have the child sit facing you with the hand you are stimulating flat and palm up.

Have the child wear a blindfold or look up at the ceiling each time you trace a shape so they cannot see their palm.

One at time, trace a shape off the page and see if they can point out the correct one. Make sure you trace it in their direction so it is the same to them as the shapes on the page facing them.

If they cannot correctly choose the shapes, it is OK. Trace it again for them while they watch and point it out on the paper. This will stimulate the receptors and neurons responsible for their sense of touch. Continue to do this each time you work with them to stimulate growth in the brain and mature their tactile function. Sensory problems usually correct themselves or improve greatly once the weaker functions have advanced.

When they get all of the shapes correct on the first page, move to the more challenging page. You want it to be a challenge, but not difficult or frustrating so stay on one long enough to let them feel success. Make it fun like a guessing game. No pressure to be accurate. The point is to stimulate the sense. Accuracy will come.

Guess the food

Get 5-10 small Tupperware containers that are the same size. Glad disposable Tupperware are perfect. Put about ½ inch of a food in each one. Use a variety of textures such as oats, rice, Cheerios, sugar, powdered sugar, elbow or shell noodles, etc.

Have the child sit facing you. Use a blind fold so they cannot see them. One at a time, have the child feel the contents with the hand you’re stimulating. Let them try to guess what it is. If they cannot guess it, take the blindfold off so they can see what they are feeling and tell them the name of it. Repeat this with each container. Over time, they should be able to name them with blindfold on so they are not using their Visual Function to compensate for Tactile.

For children with left hemispheric weakness, it is important for them name it. Putting a name to an item is done mostly in the left brain hemisphere. This will stimulate the deficiency.

Name the Item

Get a variety of items that are small enough to fit in the hand such as a penny, Lego, paperclip, button, small toy, etc. Because they are small enough to choke on, don’t leave a child unattended with them.

Have the child sit facing you. Have them wear a blindfold or look up at the ceiling so they cannot see what you hand them. One at a time, put an item into the hand you are stimulating. See if they can identify what it is by feel. If not, let them see it and tell them the name. Do this with each item. Over time, they should be able to name items you set in their hand while blindfolded.

Tip: Make it fun! No pressure to be accurate. Just make it a fun guessing game; the point is to stimulate the sense. Over time, accuracy will come naturally. Move slowly for children with overactive sensory function. Do the weaker side only. The stimulation is more irritating to them.