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Monday, July 23, 2012

Hypersensitivity in Trisomy Kids

Many trisomy kids have sensory defensiveness or sensory processing disorder (in layman's terms, hypersensitivity to touch and/or tactile input - including oral stimulation).

When Rebekah was a little over a year old, we worked with an OT that had us perform the "Wilbarger Brushing protocol" on Rebekah. It helped tremendously and we were actually able to get her to eat some orally and not react to physical input with crying. It also helped her become better at managing sensory-overload situations (like really busy, really loud places).  We eventually stopped the program because we were not seeing additional benefits. But last fall, Rebekah decided she didn't want anything in her mouth anymore. We figured it was just due to becoming more active physically. Many special needs kids will advance in one area, and regress in another for awhile. Well, her oral defensiveness has not gone away and we've lost ground on the oral feeding. Plus Rebekah sometimes acts strangely when touched in certain places. So her nurse and I discussed starting her back on the brushing program that we thought was helpful before.

The formal name of the program is called the The Wilbarger Deep Pressure and Proprioceptive Technique (DPPT) and Oral Tactile Technique (OTT) and its for Sensory Defensiveness (hypersensitivity to touch and/or tactile input) and Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD).  It was developed by Dr. Patricia Wilbarger, MEd, OTR, FAOTA, an occupational therapist and clinical psychologist that has been working with sensory processing theories for over 30 years. I've seen statistics that only 20% of kids will not benefit. About 40% will be greatly improved, and the other 40% will see some kind of improvements. Minus the starting week of the program, I think this is pretty good numbers for a relatively easy method, so I recommend it to my hypersensitive friends as a good method to try!

To begin, you need to find a therapist (PT, OT, or SLP) trained in the program because it is not recommended to do it without For the first 1-2 weeks, it requires dedication and is intense with the exercises (which only take a few minutes of time, but have to be done every 90-120 minutes around the clock). Once the first 1-2 weeks is completed and the therapist hat is working with you on the program promotes them beyond this initial phase, it then only needs to be done about 3-4 times per day.

Program Steps:
1. Take a deep pressure therapeutic brush and brushing the arms, legs, back, hands, feet in a quick, deep circular or back and forth movement. (This is basically a cheap plastic bristled surgical brush.)
2. Follow with a regiment of joint compressions.
3. Afterwards, complete the oral part of the protocol which requires oral swiping of the mouth a specific number of times followed by a certain number of jaw compressions.
4. The technique should be followed with daily activities that also stimulate proprioceptive input.

Possible Benefits:

  • improved processing and less defensiveness
  • calming
  • improved attention
  • improved transition between activities
  • improved tolerance to being touched
  • better sleeping
  • better therapy tolerance
  • better central nervous system - peripheral nervous system communication which results in movement coordination and better communication

Unfortunately, I cannot find detailed instructions online for the method. Guess that's why you have to go to a therapist trained in the method! But here are some links giving further information about the program and supplemental activities you can do to help improve sensory defensiveness.


It is important to remember that this is just ONE possible "treatment" for sensory issues and defensiveness. It will not work on every child. But we did have success, and are looking forward to seeing some more success when we start again. For an 80% success rate, I say, why not try it?!

1 comment:

  1. Here are some videos from youtube- we are doing with Cati the NACD program- and she is making lots of progress (she is 15 months old but already started making crawling motions, and if we support her head she can raise on all four). I also added a link to your article in mine, the information you posted is very useful, thank you!