Soft touch on the forearm linked to social awareness and emotions

Soft Touch on the Forearm linked to social awareness and emotions in autism

The sense of touch is pivotal to learn and understand the environment.  When a person touches an object, the sensory information regarding the texture and feel of that object is transferred to the brain.  The area of the brain that processes this information differs based on which area of the body experienced the touch sensation. (Ackerley, Carlsson, Wester, Olausson, & Backlund Wasling, 2014)

Scientists recently discovered that soft touch sensations applied between the wrist and the elbow of a person’s forearm are processed by the prefrontal cortex (responsible for social awareness) and amygdala (responsible for emotion control), whereas sensory input to the palm of the hand is processed by the parietal lobe (responsible for the identification of texture and temperature). (Kaiser et al. 2015) Consequently, soft touch on the forearm evokes an individual’s awareness of others and promotes emotional control. Autism therapy should include protocols to rehabilitate the sense of touch in order to facilitate the development of social skills.

In autism, where social skills are usually underdeveloped, those soft touches on the forearm do not elicit activation in the same way as neurotypical individuals and they do not have a social significance.  Additionally, most children with autism are hypersensitive to touch and become defensive to certain textures and pressures. Soft touch is rarely a pleasurable experience for the child with autism. Instead, individuals with autism often prefer and seek out deep pressure and tight squeezes. These preferences are the result of a deficit in the tactile processing system. (Güçlü, Tanidir, Mukaddes, & Unal, 2007)

It is important for children with autism to develop a functional level of tactile processing so that they can gain a greater understanding of social awareness and emotional control associated with soft touch.

Mendability, a unique, new autism therapy, provides a wide range of exercises involving tactile discovery and novel sensory experiences, which are specifically designed to restructure the way that the brain is organized.

With Sensory Enrichment Therapy, for a few minutes each day, the parent is invited to softly touch the child while offering a pleasant scent to smell. The soft touch involves using the tips of their fingers in random motions.  Touch often starts with the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, then gradually progresses to the child’s arm, back, neck, or head. With regular exposure and experience, the child develops a real enjoyment of the process, a stronger connection with parents, and a feeling of relaxation. This protocol rapidly becomes one of the child’s favorite experiences. (Rangel & Leon, 1995)


Ackerley, R., Carlsson, I., Wester, H., Olausson, H., & Backlund Wasling, H. (2014). Touch perceptions across skin sites: differences between sensitivity, direction discrimination and pleasantness. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 8, 54.

Güçlü, B., Tanidir, C., Mukaddes, N. M., & Unal, F. (2007). Tactile sensitivity of normal and autistic children. Somatosensory & Motor Research, 24(1-2), 21–33.

Kaiser, M. D., Yang, D. Y.-J., Voos, A. C., Bennett, R. H., Gordon, I., Pretzsch, C., … Pelphrey, K. A. (2015). Brain Mechanisms for Processing Affective (and Nonaffective) Touch Are Atypical in Autism. Cerebral Cortex .

Rangel, S., & Leon, M. (1995). Early odor preference training increases olfactory bulb norepinephrine. Brain Research. Developmental Brain Research, 85(2), 187–191.

About Sensory Enrichment Therapy

Clinical Studies Validate Sensory Enrichment Therapy as an Effective Autism Treatment

Results showed that after 6 months of therapy 42% of the children in the sensory enrichment group achieved clinically significant improvement, compared to only 7% of the children in the standard care group.

  1. Woo, C., & Leon, M. (2013). Environmental enrichment as an effective treatment for autism: A randomized controlled trial. Behavioral Neuroscience, 487-497.
  2. Woo, C., Donnelly, J., Steinberg-Epstein, R., & Leon, M. (2015). Environmental enrichment as a therapy for autism: A clinical trial replication and extension. Behavioral Neuroscience, 412-422.

42% of children with autism had a clinically significant improvement

Click here for more information about the clinical trials

  • Brain Plasticity

    Studies have shown that the brain has the ability to change and develop.

  • Sensory Enrichment Therapy

    Sensory Enrichment Therapy includes specific protocols proven to enhance brain plasticity. It is a scientifically driven treatment that uses sensory experiences to enable the brain to reduce the symptoms of autism.

  • Mendability

    Mendability provides this autism therapy over the Internet at a low cost, giving a structured treatment protocol that you can administer at home for 10-15 minutes daily.

    This is an autism therapy with clinically proven results, personalized to fit within your schedule – officially accredited by The Joint Commission.

The results are:

  • A child who initiates more natural conversations
  • A child who is more comfortable in his own skin and the world around him
  • A child who can learn more confidently
  • More calm, more focus, more engagement
  • Deeper, less interrupted sleep
  • More interest in varied foods
  • Easier to cope with change and to transition

Mendability - Sensory Enrichment Therapy for Autism - Accredited by the Joint Commission

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