Children who have sensory processing disorder cannot properly process the sensory stimuli from the outside world and may have trouble interpreting information from one or more senses. As no two children with SPD have the same type of sensory dysfunction, the symptoms will vary tremendously from child to child. We’ve compiled a list of the most common symptoms.
1. Withdrawing from touch
For parents with children who experience tactile defensiveness, their children display strong avoidance reactions to touch. They may pull back defensively when others touch them, struggle during personal care, refuse to wear certain clothing, avoid touching certain textures, and feel the need to control all interaction occurring to them. However, paradoxically these same children can show strong seeking of deep pressure touch, often graving it. They can be very clingy, grabbing and holding onto mom and dad at all times. These two conditions seem contradictory if the child is sensitive to touch.
2. Hypersensitivity to sounds
Hypersensitive children often overreact to sounds, feelings, and other experiences that make them feel uncomfortable. Many parents worry that their hypersensitive children have sensory processing disorders that need professional intervention.
Having a highly sensitive child does not necessarily mean that you have a child with a sensory processing disorder, also known as sensory integration dysfunction. Many children are highly sensitive to specific types of stimuli such as loud noises, background noise and other people’s emotions. A highly sensitive child may also want to avoid crowds, fear unexpected touches, or dislike playing games. Having a few of these sensitivities may suggest that a child has a sensory processing disorder, but it could also mean that the child simply has a few noticeable quirks.
3. Refuse to eat certain foods due to the texture
Children who limit themselves to certain food textures, perhaps like only hard pretzels or crunchy celery, may show early signs of SPD. A trained occupational therapy can evaluate a child and determine if the texture aversion is due to the eating disorder.
Alternatively, a child who will only eat soft food and has difficulty chewing may have dental problems rather than SPD. This can be caused by a lack of muscle control, pain in the mouth or throat and other physical differences in the mouth.
Additionally, a child with autism may often seem rigid around food or have strict diet. This can another reason for texture aversion.
4. Delayed fine motor control
Kids with sensory processing issues have trouble organizing information the brain receives from the senses. When we talk about senses, we usually mean the five traditional ones: sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch. But there are actually two other senses. These sixth and seventh senses control body awareness (proprioception) and balance and spatial orientation (the vestibular sense).
Having sensory processing issues can affect kids’ motor skills in several ways. If kids are uncomfortable touching things, they may be reluctant to play with and manipulate objects. This can slow down the development of some motor skills.
However, it’s far more common for trouble with the sixth and seventh senses to affect gross and fine motor skills.
5. Decreased ability to interact with peers
Sensory processing issues can impact a child’s social skills. It can also cause difficulties in the classroom. Learning more about sensory processing issues and possible treatments is a good first step in getting help for your child.
Oversensitive kids may feel anxious and irritable around other kids, making it hard to socialize. Undersensitive kids, on the other hand, may be too rough with others. Other kids might avoid them on the playground or exclude them from birthday parties.