7 Ways to Identify Signs of Sensory Issues in Children
Have you ever heard the phrase “sensory issues” and thought… hmm, I wonder does my child have sensory issues? When it comes to sensory issues, you are not alone. With the increasing awareness of kids sensory issues, more and more parents are starting to wonder the same thing.
SENSORY ISSUES IN KIDS
When your child struggles with sensory issues it can be downright debilitating. In fact, it can affect every aspect of your life, from family outings to night time routines. When a child struggles with sensory issues, it can make every day activities difficult and make parenting even harder than it already is.
What are sensory issues?
Sensory issues in kids can involve difficulties in processing and responding to sensory input. Common sensory issues include difficulty with visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory (taste), vestibular (balance), and proprioceptive (body awareness) sensations. Depending on the child’s individual needs and challenges, signs of sensory issues can range from minor to severe, and may include symptoms such as difficulty with transitions, distractibility, poor self-regulation or sensory seeking behaviors. Sensory issues can also impact a child’s development and ability to learn and interact socially. It is important for parents to be aware of the potential signs of sensory issues in their children so they can seek appropriate help and interventions.
SIGNS OF SENSORY ISSUES/SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER (SPD)
While there are are many signs of sensory processing disorder, which require an official evaluation and diagnosis, sometimes just being able to relate to an issue can help you understand more about what your child is struggling with. These clues are meant as a way to help you better understand your child and hopefully set you on the path to getting them the support they need.
People always ask me when I first knew my son struggled with sensory issues. At what point did I realize that it wasn’t just bad parenting or a defiant child?
Today, I have gathered some of my initial signs that led me to realize my son needed much more sensory support than I was giving him.
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7 WAYS TO RECOGNIZE SENSORY DISORDER IN CHILDREN
1. Constant Chewing and Biting
Oh the chewing! My son chewed on everything from the bed post to his sleeves on his shirt. If your child is chewing and biting on things constantly, this can be a very strong sign that your child has oral sensory needs that are not being met. A simple solution could be chewable jewelry or a water bottle with a bite valve. Here are a few of my favorite chewable jewelry pieces:
- Sensory Necklace Silicone Pendant Jewelry Set for boys and girls that look like LEGO bricks
- Sensory Chew Necklace for Kids & Adults for boys and girls that look like colorful donuts
- Chew Necklace for Sensory Kids Unicorn Necklace
2. Constant Movement
Do you have a child that seems to constantly be on the move. They seek out the fastest rides, they seem to never sit still, or they are constantly running? This could be a sign that they have vestibular sensory needs that are not being met. A simple solution could be fun vestibular activities like swinging, obstacle courses, or even a good old fashioned game of twister
3. Extreme Picky Eating
Unfortunately, picky eating is often looked at as a “bad behavior”. One that is rooted in defiance and “naughtiness” not one that stems from a child’s oral and/or gustatory needs. There can be many reasons your child is refusing every meal you put in front of them that goes beyond trying to be in control.
4. Always Disorganized
Do you have a child that never seems to know where anything is? Sounds like most kids, right? However, if a child is struggling with visual sensory processing, simple tasks such as keeping up with their school supplies can be down right daunting. They might need other tools and strategies such as visual schedules and charts to help them with every day tasks that most of us take for granted.
5. Refuses Certain Clothing
I know many children can be very picky about what clothes they wear. However, if your child struggles with tactile sensory issues, they might refuse simple things such as socks, shoes or tags in clothes. This can make getting ready for school each morning extremely challenging. Simple tactile sensory experiences such as sensory bins and tactile games can help a child get used to the sensation and help with their tactile sensory needs.
6. Avoids Large Crowds or Loud Places
This can be incredibly tricky. Many children with sensory issues don’t know they don’t like loud places in the beginning. However, it is evident by their behavior any time you are in a large area or crowded place that something is bothering your child. These children could also be the same children that seem to never “hear” your instructions or requests due to their auditory sensory issues. This can be helped by providing noise reduction ear muffs, or going to loud places during less busy times of the day.
7. Easily Agitated or Angry
Having an angry child can make you feel like a failure as a parent, for sure. I know. I live it almost every single day. Children with sensory issues often are extremely angry or frustrated due to sensory overload and the inability to regulate their own emotions. There are many sensory hacks for helping children calm their intense emotions.
SOLUTIONS FOR KIDS WITH SENSORY ISSUES
Of course, there is a lot more to sensory processing than just seven red flags and clues. Sensory issues are real and can make parenting extremely hard.
If you are concerned about your child and these simple sensory solutions don’t help support your child’s needs, I strongly suggest seeing your pediatrician about getting your child evaluated further.
CHILD SENSORY ISSUES FAQS
SPD stands for Sensory Processing Disorder. SPD is a neurological disorder that affects how a child’s brain processes sensory information from the senses (touch, sound, sight, smell, taste and movement). Children who suffer from SPD often have difficulty processing and responding to sensory input, which can lead to difficulties with everyday activities such as dressing, eating and interacting with others. Kids with SPD may also exhibit behaviors that seem out of proportion to the situation such as oversensitivity to sound, light or touch, or under-sensitivity to normal sensory stimuli. It is important to note that this is a spectrum disorder and can affect individuals differently depending on their individual needs and levels of sensitivity. If you suspect your child has an issue with processing sensory information, be sure to speak with your doctor who can provide appropriate resources and interventions.
No, Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is not a form of autism. While some individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders may have sensory sensitivities, it is important to note that SPD is a distinct disorder and should be evaluated separately from Autism.
Sensory issues are not a component of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). While some kids with ADHD may have sensory sensitivities, it is important to note that these two conditions should be evaluated separately.
The most common form of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). APD affects how a child’s brain processes sound, making it difficult for a kid to distinguish between similar sounds or accurately interpret what is being said. Children with APD may also experience difficulty understanding conversations in noisy environments or have problems following instructions.
Examples of sensory issues include:
-Oversensitivity to sound
-Difficulty with tactile sensations such as being uncomfortable wearing certain fabrics.
Difficulty with visual stimuli such as problems reading or focusing on distance
-Under-sensitivity to normal sensory stimuli which can look like a child being aggressive and bumping into other children.
-Hypersensitivity to temperature or textures
-Difficulty sensing body position in the space around them (proprioception)
-Difficulty with fine motor activities
-Low tolerance for physical activity.
-Sensory issues can also affect eating behaviors and daily routines.
A child’s sensory issues can be triggered by a variety of factors, including environmental changes, emotional stress and physical discomfort. Some common triggers include loud noises or lights, new or unfamiliar environments, certain fabrics or textures, strong odors or tastes, and temperature fluctuations. Other less obvious triggers that can cause sensory overload are fatigue, hunger, and dehydration. Watch a child’s environment closely to be aware of potential triggers and create an environment that allows for self-regulation as much as possible.
More Sensory Resources from Kids Activities Blog
- Our big list of sensory bin ideas
- We love portable, playable sensory bag ideas!
- Our favorite sensory activities for toddlers
- Our favorite sensory activities for 2 year olds
- How to make kinetic sand for sensory play
- How to make cloud dough for sensory play
- How to make bath tub paint for sensory play
- Simple rice sensory bin instructions
Do you have any sensory issue tips and resources to share? Please leave anything in the comments below that could help another parent with their child’s sensory issues.