Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Autism Understanding & Acceptance 2014 Day 3: Touch

The next question posed was about touch.  Does he like it?  He seems not to.

I'll answer this for T and then explain as best I can for the sensory sensitive types in general.

Thomas is quite fine with familiar people touching him.  It's the hugging that is the issue.  Only recently have I been gifted with him tolerating chest-to-chest hugs, and that's not happening too frequently.  If you ask for a hug, he will back up into you.  It must be less overwhelming to feel another body against his back than his chest & tummy.  Another thing he may do instead of a hug is lean in toward you, with the top of his head toward your face.  This is his indication that you may kiss the top of his head.  No hug, though!

For people with autism, Sensory Integration Dysfunction is pretty typical.  All our senses give our bodies input.  For us NTs (Neuro-Typicals), we can see, smell, hear, feel and taste the world and our bodies can make sense of it.  For those with Sensory Integration Dysfunction, all bets are off.  Each sense has the potential to be over-reactive or under-reactive.  So wearing a shirt with a tag may not be an issue, or be a slight annoyance for an NT, but for those with Sensory Integration Dysfunction, it could be like a knife back there.  The sound of an AC unit turning on may not even come to our attention, but for others, that noise is a huge disruption and distraction.  If your sense of touch is under-reactive, you may need to wear weighted vests or compression shirts to feel where your body is in space - and you may do a lot of "crashing": throwing yourself in to a couch or bed just to feel yourself!

It's hard for me to determine what is up with his sense of touch.  Over reactive?  Under?  On one hand, he did a lot of crashing when he was younger.  He loves for us to pound on the bottoms of his feet.  He seems to enjoy wearing compression shirts.  But he does not want a weighted blanket on him (much to my chagrin after buying one), nor does he seem to crave big hugs.  So I shrug my shoulders and say "It is what it is".

So pat him on the shoulder, give him tickles if he's in a good mood, and if he leans in, kiss the top of his head.  He'll like all of that input!

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