T actile Perception: Tactile perception refers to touch. We have two sensory system for touch perception, the protective system and the Discriminative system. The protective system: responds to light or unexpected touch. It alerts us to any stimuli that might be harmful. This is a survival system. It's the system that pulls our hand away from a hot stove.
The second system is our discriminative system. It is the system that enables us to gain information about our environment through our skin. It helps us feel the difference between hard and soft, smooth and rough.
T hese systems have to be in balance, working together. If we are in too much of a protective mode, then we are unable to discriminate properly. In infancy the protective system is primary, yet as the baby moves around giving simulation to his own skin the protective system starts to become inhibited allowing the discriminative system to emerge.
Information from the skin regarding touch, pressure, pain, and temperature is very important for the formation of body schema. The tactile system starts to mylinate early, right after the vestibular/cochlear system and it is the only system that is fully mylinated at birth. Good tactile perception is important in the development of accurate neuronal body models.
T actile defensiveness can interrupt the contribution of accurate tactile perception that is necessary for good motor planning. Tactile sensitivity or tactile defensiveness is seen commonly in children with sensory integration disorders. In tactile defensiveness it is believed that the tactile system is unable to shift from its protective role to its more discriminative role. It remains in a hyper vigilant state and is not able to adequately discriminate. Correlation's between hyperactive behavior and tactile defensiveness has been found. It is believed that the tactile system is primal in activating the reticular activating system, which provides the foundation for attention.
C hildren with tactile defensiveness often are also hypersensitive to sound, have difficulty distinguishing foreground from background noise, and are also easily visually distracted. The tactile system, our sense of touch is a sensory system that develops very early and therefore has the opportunity to influence the developing brain. Tomatis viewed the skin as part of the vestibular (somatic) integrator because the tissue that goes on to become the skin in the developing fetus emerges from the tissue that forms the ear.
The tactile system starts to develop soon after the vestibular system, and it is the only sensory system that is fully functional at birth. As soon as a baby can move, he reaches out to the world through his sense of touch. The mouth and the hands are both very rich in tactile receptors and consequently are the primary tools the baby uses to explore the world; consequently everything is put in his mouth. The more accurate the information the baby receives from his sense of touch, the more accurate his internalized picture of the world will be.