Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 457–471 | Cite as

Tactile defensiveness in children with developmental disabilities: Responsiveness and habituation

  • Grace T. Baranek
  • Gershon Berkson


Tactile defensiveness (TD) is characterized by behaviors such as rubbing, scratching, negative expressions, withdrawal, or avoidance in response to tactile stimulation. An inhibition deficit has been implied in the literature and is the focus of this study. School-aged children with developmental disabilities were first assessed for level of TD using three measures. Later, the children were presented with a repeated tactile stimulus while engaged in a computer game. Intensity, duration, and latency of the responses were recorded on each trial. It was hypothesized that higher levels of TD would be associated with (a) greater responsiveness and (b) slower habituation rates to the tactile stimulus. Correlations of three separate TD measures and a series of 3×10 (Level of TD by Responsiveness across trials) repeated measures ANOVAs were used to test the two hypotheses. Children who demonstrated higher levels of TD on some of the preliminary measures also showed higher responsiveness in the experimental situation. There was no general habituation effect, and the limited group by trials interactions were not interpretable. We concluded that there is evidence for a differential sensitivity in TD, but not an inhibition deficit. Another significant finding included a negative correlation between TD and developmental age.


Computer Game Developmental Disability Limited Group Tactile Stimulus Repeat Measure ANOVAs 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Grace T. Baranek
    • 1
  • Gershon Berkson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology (M/C 285)University of Illinois at ChicagoChicago

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