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What Are Some Signs of Over-Responsiveness to Tactile Processing?

Megan Paben, MOT, OTR/L, ASDCS

November 15, 2023

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Question

What are some signs of over-responsiveness to tactile processing?

Answer

Over-responsiveness to tactile processing can present as a hypersensitivity to tactile stimuli. Individuals with this sensory profile may exhibit strong aversion to specific textures, materials, or sensations. For instance, they might be extremely discomforted by the feel of certain fabrics against their skin, causing them to avoid clothing items made from those materials. These individuals may also show a reluctance to engage in messy play, such as finger painting or playing with mud, as these activities can be overwhelming due to the tactile sensations involved. As a result, they may have a limited tolerance for certain clothing materials and opt for those that feel less intrusive on their skin. Additionally, they might express discomfort or anxiety when others touch them, leading to a preference for personal space and a hesitance to engage in physical contact like hugs or handshakes.

It's essential to recognize that over-responsiveness to tactile processing can significantly impact an individual's daily life and interactions. Simple tasks like getting dressed or participating in social activities can become sources of stress and discomfort. Understanding these signs is crucial for providing support and accommodations to help individuals with tactile over-responsiveness navigate their sensory sensitivities and engage more comfortably in their daily routines.

This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, Employing Verbal De-Escalation Strategies In Occupational Therapy Megan Paben. 


megan paben

Megan Paben, MOT, OTR/L, ASDCS

Megan Paben received her master’s degree in occupational therapy at the College of Saint Mary in Omaha, Nebraska, in 2007. Megan began her career as a school therapist in rural Nebraska, serving several small schools. After two years in the school setting, Megan transitioned into an outpatient pediatric clinic working with a variety of different diagnoses, and worked as the marketing coordinator.  After a couple of years, Megan took over the manager position within the medical clinic. During this time, she worked in a school within the community as well as working with the adult population clinic that was connected to her medical clinic. In 2018, Megan and her family relocated to Colorado, where she is an occupational therapist for a growing school district.  In her current position, Megan is the lead motor staff member. She serves 5 center-based classrooms for social communication as well as affective needs. Megan is a Crisis Prevention Intervention trainer for her district and an Autism Spectrum Disorders Clinical Specialist. 


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