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Part 1

HandsExploreDishSMDuring the first phases of learning, information that is within arms' reach is used to integrate the senses and learn about the self, and then the world.  Reflexive behavior, such as circular movement of the arms, gives sensory information to the skin and joints that something is happening.  The peripheral vision is triggered by the movement, and the child may begin to notice that when the arm is in a certain position, his eyes notice the movement, but when it is touching the mattress, he can no longer notice the movement.  With enough repetition, the child may discover that he can control those movements. 

When a child has little movement, has reduced or absent vision, and/or has fewer opportunities to play in this way due to health issues, this learning is delayed. Still it remains integral to development and cannot be skipped.  The child with sensory and/or motor impairment must have the opportunity to notice what affect his reflexive movement has on the world, to repeat that movement until he understands what connection it has to his body and will, and to begin to build a framework for higher understanding.

Once we have embraced the idea of tactile skills and learning through touch for the child, we must be careful and approach the sensitive hands of a tactile learner just like we would approach the sensitive eyes of a visual learner.  We show, point, and guide the hands, but we never restrict or force them.  Just as we would not move a person's eyes for them, we don't move their hands for them.    Early experiences with touch are very important, so we do not want them to be negative. Sometimes this is unavoidable, especially when a child has gone through lifesaving but unpleasant and perhaps painful medical procedures.  When a child pulls away from touch, the trust of the outside world must be rebuilt slowly and gently. 

Activity 2:  

Please download and read Talking the Language of the Hands to the Hands written by Barbara Miles.

Continue to Part 2: Awareness of Existing Tactile Skills

Jump to Part 3: Interacting with Others Tactilely / Tactile Communication

Jump to Part 4: Articles and Resources on Touch 

Return to Introduction: Touch and the Development of the Tactile Sense