Unlike the other four direct senses (hearing, vision, smell and taste) the sense of touch is not located in a specific part of the body, but is spread right across every part of the skin and even inside the body. There are about twenty different types of nerve endings that are the receptors for the sense of touch – the most common being those that sense heat, cold, pain and pressure.
It is rare for the sense of touch to be assessed by a doctor or health professional. It seems that this is something that is simply taken for granted. We come across a large number of clients, however, that display significant over or under-sensitivities in their sense of touch. This may have a profound influence on behaviour and sense of self.
In the first instance you often can get a reasonable evaluation of how the sense of touch is performing by simple observations you can make yourself. These can play a key role in uncovering what may lie behind learning, sensory, developmental or emotional difficulties.
Here we outline some typical behaviours that often are the result of the sense of touch not working properly:
- Does not like to be touched, hugged or kissed
- Touches things with the back of the hand
- Is disturbed by labels in clothing
- Likes to wear loose fitting clothes
- Does not like to wear socks or shoes
- Likes to be without any clothes
- Does not like to wear anything on the head
- Avoids team sports
- Has a need to be constantly touched, is clingy
- Likes to be squeezed, hugged or bitten
- Likes to play with water
- Is very fidgety
- Likes to sleep under heavy covers
- Likes to wear tight fitting clothes
- Keeps pulling sleeves down over hands
- Likes to wear high neck / polo neck sweaters
- Likes to be under heavy objects
- Self stimulates at an early age
- Does not like dirty hands
- Does not like different textures, like sand, mud, etc
- Is very still and does not like to move
- Avoids most head movements
- Is very cautious when walking or playing
- Walks on toes
Each typical behaviour on its own may not be meaningful. However, where there is a cluster of indicators, possibly across a number of senses, and the person has learning, sensory, developmental or emotional difficulties, these can indicate that one or more of the senses are out of balance.