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Wilbarger Protocol

Designed to reduce sensory defensiveness- Patricia Wilbarger

What is the Wilbarger Protocol?​

The Wilbarger Protocol (also referred to as brushing therapy) was developed by occupational therapist, Patricia Wilbarger, MEd, OTR, FAOTA. The protocol is designed to be used in conjunction with an individualized sensory “diet” and/or sensory integration therapy based on the specific needs of the child. It should be carried out under the guidance of someone knowledgable of the protocol and trained in sensory integration theory and practice.


The Wilbarger Protocol involves a specific type of pressure touch massage that is done with a soft, plastic, sensory brush or Therapressure Brush which is run over the child's skin, using very firm pressure. It is designed to enhance certain sensory nerves  and their pathways. The protocol also includes a series of joint compressions that are always used in conjunction with the brushing to enhance joint perception and feedback. 


Who may benefit from The Wilbarger Protocol?​

Individuals who exhibit symptoms of tactile sensitivities may benefit from The Wilbarger Protocol. Those with tactile defensiveness can be extremely sensitive to touch. They often have aversion to certain clothing textures and may not be able to tolerate tags, seams in socks or even certain fabrics. They often fear or resist being touched, have difficulty transitioning between activities, and may seem anxious or lethargic.


How is The Wilbarger Protocol Implemented?​

The complete protocol usually takes 2-3 minutes to administer. Brushing starts at the arms and works down to the feet. The face, chest, and stomach area are never brushed because these are very sensitive areas. Brushing these areas may cause adverse reactions including vomiting. Some of the reported benefits of The Wilbarger Protocol may include a decreased fear or discomfort of being touched, increased tolerance to various textures, better self-regulation, improved ability to transition between daily activities, improved attention span, and enhanced coordination.

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