5 Signs of a Sensory Processing Disorder

In occupational therapy, we address a wide variety of areas, including sensory processing. In pediatrics, we often see children who have difficulty processing sensory input resulting in difficulties in daily routines and activities. So what exactly is sensory processing disorder (SPD)? SPD is a condition in which the brain has difficulty receiving and responding appropriately to input coming from the different senses. Each child presents differently in regards to their sensory processing, but there are some well-known signs that could indicate sensory processing difficulties. Below are 5 signs that your child may have challenges with sensory processing

Clumsy/Uncoordinated: if your child is clumsy, bumps into people/things, is uncoordinated, and/or seems to have a difficult time with understanding where his/her body is in space then they could have difficulty with proprioceptive and/or vestibular processing. The proprioceptive system is essentially responsible for our body awareness and the vestibular system helps us to understand our sense of balance and our awareness of our body in space while we are moving. 

Picky eating: does your child eat only specific foods of certain textures or tastes? Does your child have a limited food repertoire? Do they gag on food items? This could indicate difficulty with oral sensory processing which can impact their nutrition. 

Covers their ears or reacts strongly to unexpected or loud noises: if your child covers their ears or gets extremely upset when hearing loud or unexpected noises (i.e. hand dryer, sirens, vacuum, etc.) this could indicate auditory hypersensitivity. This means that their auditory system is more sensitive than ours and noise that may not affect us can greatly impact your child and elicit a negative response. 

Difficulty tolerating grooming tasks or clothing items: if your child has a big upset reaction to grooming tasks (i.e., tooth brushing, hair/nail cutting, hair brushing) or dislikes wearing certain clothing items this could indicate tactile hypersensitivity. This means that their tactile (“touch”) system is more sensitive so certain tasks can feel uncomfortable or even painful to your child. 

Craves and Seeks movement: does your child seem more active than their peers? Do they enjoy constantly crashing, hugging, spinning, or running? This could indicate sensory seeking behaviors. Kids will seek out input to help regulate and organize their bodies. Just like you might go take a quick walk before returning back to your work desk, our sensory seekers seek out and need even more of that sensory input than we do to help regulate themselves. 

Sensory processing disorder presents itself differently in each child and they can have difficulties processing more than one sensory system. For example, some kids might be overly sensitive to touch, but may not even register their name being called indicating difficulty with their tactile and auditory processing. If you think your child is having difficulties, it could be helpful to get an evaluation done by an occupational therapist who can address your child’s sensory needs. For more about sensory processing check out some of our other blogs!

Contact Chicago Occupational Therapy or call (773) 980-0300 to learn more about our services and how we can help your child flourish and grow.