Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Importance of Touch for Newborn Development

It seems like I can't go to work even one day and not be reminded of how IMPORTANT the sense of touch is, and how its development can be hindered by developmental disabilities and/or premature birth. It is interesting how the sense of touch has pathways that connect to soooo many parts of the brain, therefore any brain damage at all typically results in some sort of tactile dysfunction. Sometimes that means the child being overly sensitive to touch such as not wanting to be held or only wanting to be held a certain way; this can impact attachment and bonding to caregivers and motor skill development. Sensitivity may be less obvious such as grouchiness when being clothed in aversive fabrics like lace or polyester. Tactile dysfunction may also impair the infant's ability to discriminate touch input. This might show with poor sucking and feeding skills or body awareness needed for rolling, sitting, crawling, reaching, and walking because if the tactile information is not detected then these skills are hindered. Kids with severe impairments with discrimination may not detect pain or detect it less than typical. I've had parents report that some of these children break a bone and don't even cry, so the parents don't even realize it until the body part swells and turns blue! The following link describles the sense of touch and ideas to promote it.


The Importance of Touch for Newborn Development

I personally am a big fan of infant massage for many reasons including promoting the development of the sense of touch. A few years ago when I became an infant massage instructor, I first had to do lots of studying and "homework". I learned that it has quite a bit of evidence that it improves attachment, bonding, digestion, and body awareness as well as some other areas of development. I use it a lot to help calm the baby prior to a bottle feeding, especially with premature babies who have poor sucking/swallowing skills as well as a poor ability to calm down and get "organized." So what's your favorite way to promote the sense of touch in infants?

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