Auditory & Tactile
This is part two of a series where I am sharing everything I know on the subject of sensory needs, gleaned from my experience as a Special Needs parent. To start at the beginning, click here to go to Part 1.
If someone is under-responsive to auditory input, they may appear to be “in their own world” at times, and accused of not paying attention, when truly, they didn’t hear what was being said, or have not yet processed what was said. This could be thought of as an online video that is “buffering”. It’s working on it… just give it a second to catch up! To accommodate someone who is under-responsive to sound, remember to make sure you have their attention before speaking to them and be patient if asked to repeat yourself.
If someone has an aversion/over-responsiveness to noise, they may become distraught or even appear to “shut down” in noisy environments, finding it difficult to think and communicate clearly. Ways to be considerate of this is to consider the type of background music or noise (avoid loud rock music, for instance), and to reduce volume as much as possible. Provide hearing protection in all work environments.
If someone is auditory-seeking, they will enjoy sounds, and may seek out repetitive sounds.(Or make their own by rhythmically drumming/tapping on objects.) They may be very passionate about music.
Things that May Help Auditory Over-Responsiveness/Aversions:
- Hearing Protection Ear Muffs
Ear muffs that reduce decibels aren’t just helpful for operating power tools! They now come in adult, youth, child, and infant sizing and a range of colors/designs. Some are integrated with Bluetooth, so they can be worn to reduce outside noise while on the phone or listening to music/podcasts/audiobooks.
- Loop, Flair, or Calmer In-Ear Noise Reduction Aids
These devices work like reverse hearing aids. They “turn down” the volume you are hearing instead of “turning it up.” They are worn in the ear like a hearing aid, and filter out noise/reduce decibels.
- White Noise Machines
To cancel out distracting sounds while reading, studying, or sleeping
- “Sensory Shopping” hours at commercial locations, where stores lower their lights, turn off the music, and refrain from noisy announcements of the speaker system.
Things that May Help Auditory Sensory-Seekers:
- Background Music
- Sound Therapy Items
- Vibroacoustic Therapy Items
Many people think of sound only in terms of hearing, but sound can also be experienced as vibration. Vibroacoustic Therapy products help users experience the vibration of sound waves with less noise.
- Percussion Instruments
Take a “body break” with sound and rhythm. A fun way is by teaching a class how to play a song with “Boomwhackers“
- Fidget Toys
Some fidget toys have a sound component including Pop-Its, Pop Tubes & Wacky Tracks
- Favorite Music
Keep the iPod charged!
- Decibel-Controlled Headphones
To prevent hearing loss from turning the volume up too loudly
- Noisy Toys/Games/Musical Instruments
- Dreampad Pillow
Vibroacoustic therapy for home use at a more affordable price.
If someone is under-responsive to touch, they may appear to be clumsy or have poor handwriting, as a result of not receiving enough “feedback” from items in their hands.
If someone has an aversion/oversensitivity to touch, they may be extra-sensitive to textures and physical affection. They may be uncomfortable with hugs, handshakes, or other physical touch. They may be very particular about the clothing they wear, opting to be “comfortable” at all times. They may have a sensory-based feeding disorder that limits the types of foods they can tolerate eating due to how the different textures feel in their mouth.
If someone is tactile-seeking, they may be extra-affectionate, struggle with “look, don’t touch” rules, and enjoy working with their hands. They may also be “chewers,” chewing on things they shouldn’t, or biting people for no apparent reason (not as a result of a temper tantrum/anger, but rather trying to put other people’s hands in their mouths, etc…).
Things that May Help Tactile Under-Responsiveness:
- Tactile Discrimination Activities
Activities designed to practice differentiating between textures and shapes
- Tactile Discrimination Toys
- Homemade Tactile Discrimination Toys/Activities
Pinterest has a wealth of of DIY tutorials for making sensory products at home that won’t blow the budget, such as sensory bins, textured pillows, “sensory walks,” etc…
When handling fragile objects, gloves with “grips” may prove useful
Things that May Help Tactile Over-Responsiveness/Aversions:
- Tagless Clothing, Very Soft Clothing, Athletic Wear
Old Navy has a great line of shirts for children called their “Ultrasoft” T’s. They are both tagless and incredibly gentle and soft. My son loves them!***
- Feeding Therapy & consultations with a Dietician if eating is an issue.
Things that May Help Tactile Sensory-Seekers:
*Fidget Pillows or Lap Pads
Something to keep on their lap to touch and feel while trying to sit and concentrate at a desk or story circle
- Fidget Toys
For the same reason, a collection of varied fidget toys is a great addition to any classroom (be it school, Sunday School, or clubs) or waiting room (be it a teacher’s office, or a dentist/optometrist office). Amazon has begun selling variety boxes that take the guesswork out of which toys to try.
- Sensory Break Room
Larger and more permanent tactile activities are a great addition to a break room for children of all types of sensory needs
- Sensory Bins, Playdough, Slime, etc…
Once again, Pinterest is your friend here. The crafty moms and bloggers of Pinterest-land have thousands of tutorials ready for you. The same sensory activities that you would use to help an under-responsive child will also soothe, satisfy, and delight a sensory-seeking child.
- “Mermaid” Products
Mermaid fabric (sequined fabric that can be brushed up and down with your hand) is very popular, with good reason. These products are very fun to pet and touch.
- Fidget Toys
A variety box is a good way to start, but you will soon find that your child has a preference. Stock up on these ones, and keep one in your purse, one in the car, one in their backpack, etc… They can be lifesavers!
Chewers definitely benefit from having something to chew on other than their own hands or shirt-sleeves! It can also cut down on biting incidents in preschool, which I can confidently say that we all want, amiright?
“Chewlery” comes in a variety of sizes (for little-big mouths) and levels of firmness (soft-hard). It is recommended that you go with the softest one your chewer can enjoy, to prevent damage to the jaw/teeth, however, aggressive chewers will require more firm chews. (My son bit clean through some of his first chews. I remember he once went through $80 worth of chewlery in a week! Thank goodness we finally found something that worked for him!)
Our top two favorite chewlery brands are Ark (particularly their “brick sticks”) and Zilla Chu Buddy
And there you have it! That’s Auditory & Tactile. Subscribe to my blog to get notified of next week’s installment: Gustatory & Olfactory.
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