Offering positive touch – in a way that works for your individual child – is an important part of giving praise. Consider times when you’ve done exceptionally well at work or in your family- do you love to give high-fives, do you throw your fist in the air, or do you like a big hug? All of us have different orientations to how we like to experience praise, but for many of us using our bodies to celebrate is a key element – and it’s the same for your child! What kind of positive touch do you offer when you tell your little one they are doing something well?
Because many children with special needs have sensory issues, touch can be an important piece of communicating, relationship building, and teaching. Learning how to give your child the touch that is right for her or him can deeply enhance your parent-child relationship.
Many children, especially when they are over-aroused, love deep pressure. Some of the gestures they might enjoy including having their hands, shoulders, upper or lower arms squeezed. At times, squeezing the torso by having the child face away from you and firmly wrapping your arms around their torso to squeeze is a welcome gesture! Other children like the “chest press and shake.” Place one hand on the chest, the other on the back, and squeeze together briefly with a little shake. If a child is working on a task, sometimes a side-by-side buddy hug is best, as it allows the child to stay focused and oriented to the task they are completing.
Other children are prone to under-arousal, and for these children light, quick moving touches are best. For example, you can grasp a child’s hand a shake, or place a hand on their belly and jiggle lightly.
If your child ever flinches or recoils when you are offering touch for praise, it may indicate that your touch has triggered sensory defensiveness. If this happens, try another kind of touch on the list. You can also consult an occupational therapist who can help you to identify what kind of touch works best for your child.