If you do not personally experience challenges with sensory processing, you may not recognize all of the different tactile input that you encounter on a daily basis. For children with sensory issues or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), however, it can be difficult navigating new environments with unfamiliar sensory input. In a therapeutic preschool program, teachers and therapists can work directly with students to address sensory concerns by developing individualized treatment plans including OT-Approved Tactile Play. In this type of program, there is typically an extremely low student-to-teacher ratio, allowing for more one-on-one attention than a typical preschool program.
How can a therapeutic preschool program help with tactile issues?
If a child experiences issues with tactile information, they may be hypersensitive (heightened sensitivity) or hyposensitive (decreased sensitivity) to tactile input, including touch or textures. If a child is hypersensitive to sensory input, they may also be referred to “tactilely defensive.” So, what exactly does “tactile defensiveness” mean? If a child is tactilely defensive, they may find the touch of another person to be painful. Children with autism or other sensory issues may experience these issues as a result of how their nervous system processing the sensory input. (They are not responding in this way intentionally!) In a situation where a child finds a hug from another to be painful, their internal “fight or flight” response is detecting that hug as a threat.
In a therapeutic preschool program, a pediatric occupational therapist (OT) can work directly with children who are tactilely defensive to improve their sensory integration and responses to tactile input with OT-Approved Tactile Play. This can be especially important for children to work on prior to starting kindergarten, because they may exhibit extreme reactions to tactile input or have problematic behaviors. As a result, it can be beneficial to resolve these behaviors through occupational therapy or ABA therapy services in a therapeutic preschool setting.
One way a therapeutic preschool program can improve these skills is through OT-Approved Tactile Play.
5 tactile play ideas for a therapeutic preschool program
Everyday childhood activities can also help with tactile responses, so they can be easily integrated into a therapeutic preschool program routine.
Finger painting: This activity can help children to develop their sensory processing skills. This skill can also be beneficial to a wide range of students in a therapeutic preschool program, so it can be structured as a full-group activity.
Sensory bins: These are bins filled with objects of all different textures. Exposure to different types of tactile input through sensory bins can be therapeutic for children who experience sensory processing issues with different tactile input.
Water beads: The texture of these beads can help children with sensory issues to improve their processing of tactile input.
Balloons: Some therapeutic preschool programs will fill balloons with different textures to help children improve their responses to tactile input.
Sand: Many classrooms have a tray of sand, which can be used to improve sensory processing skills for tactile input. Many children (and adults!) find the texture of sand to be very calming.
At CST Academy, we individualize our approach to fit the unique of each child in our program. Call us at 773-620-7800 to learn more about our therapeutic preschool program in Chicago to determine whether our program would be a good fit for your little one!