The brushing technique is one of the commonly used methods by an occupational therapist to support children with sensory processing disorder. It is commonly acknowledged that brushing helps children to focus, manage new situations and children have better awareness and control over themselves.

You may consider seeking help from an occupational therapist if your child is having difficulty in any of the following:

  • Refusal to touch or brush teeth
  • Sensitivity to certain textures for clothes or play (dough, slime, etc)
  • Ability to stay focused or alert
  • Transitioning from one activity to the next
  • Identifying they are hungry or need to use the washroom

What is brushing?

Therapressure Brush – recommended for brushing

Brushing therapy or Wilbarger Protocol is introduced to children who exhibit symptoms of tactile defensiveness, i.e. sensitivity to touch. When a child is responding to their sensitiveness, they will be exhibiting behaviors that are generally unacceptable.  These sensitivities can be due to food textures, fabric/clothes, or even daily care such as brushing or hugs. Usually, when children exhibit refusal to certain food or preference of certain food, parents may tend to classify them as picky eaters. However, if your child exhibits symptoms in other areas, you may want to consider seeking help from occupational therapists.

The brushing technique will usually take about 2-3 minutes to complete. Furthermore, recommendation for brushing to be conducted once every 2 hours in the initial period of introduction. During this period, the occupational therapist will work closely with parents to monitor the child’s reaction/progress to their sensitivities.

The brushing technique may continue with the child as long as it benefits the child. It is usually paired with joint compression techniques. The technique does involve a lot of deep pressure and sensory stimulation. Therefore, though it may look simple, we strongly advise parents to seek help from their occupational therapists. Occupational therapist will train parents on the implementation of technique on their child.

Who needs brushing?

Children who have a high sensitivity to touch, ages from 2 to 12 years old may benefit from brushing. Brushing as a routine may benefit children who have difficulty calming down or winding down before bedtime. Brushing is to stimulate nerve endings on our skin to “receive” and “translate” the information more effectively. Thus, it allows our children to self-regulate or improve their ability to transition through activity.

Should I do brushing on my child?

Before any parents get hyped up and perform brushing with their child, do seek help from your occupational therapist to ensure that your child does require such therapy. The techniques may look simple, however, without proper guidance, you may trigger the opposite effect if applied incorrectly. Furthermore, an occupational therapist would need to monitor your child’s response to the therapy and make necessary changes to ensure that the therapy will benefit your child.

If your occupational therapist has prescribed the brushing “homework” to you and you need a refresher, watch Alia’s simple video to refresh on the brushing or watch her sharing on An Afternoon with Alia: Sensory Stimulation Techniques.


Brushing is one of the techniques commonly used to support children with sensory processing difficulties. Research data can neither prove nor dispel the effectiveness of the brushing technique in supporting children with sensory difficulties. Therefore, it is highly recommended for parents to seek professional help from occupational therapists to cater to their child’s needs.

Speak to us if you would like to schedule for a session with our occupational therapist at +6018 2301 669.

Learn more on other techniques to support your child from Alia in her short course, Skills for School. Sign up before 31st January to enjoy early bird promo.

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