Our body’s sensory system starts to develop even before we are born, and it helps us to understand our world. It takes in information through many different paths, including our eyes, ears, mouth, skin, and our muscles and joints.
Children use their sensory system to learn about their own bodies, and also about the world around them. When the sensory system is developing normally, a child is able to “make sense” of all the information coming in through the senses. He is then able to behave in a way that is appropriate to the situation. If a child does not “make sense” of all the information coming in, she may behave in ways that are inappropriate and that keep her from learning.
Here are some signs that a child may be having difficulty with sensory processing:
- Seems over-sensitive to sounds (cries or covers ears when hearing loud or normal sounds)
- Has trouble paying attention to normal sounds
- Is always making noise and sounds so that it bothers other people (e.g. banging, screaming, humming, etc.)
- Over-sensitive to touch (cries or lashes out when touched by people, gets upset when touched by different fabrics or objects)
- Is always touching things to the point of annoying others (e.g. rubbing other people’s faces or skin, touching other people’s hair, etc.)
- Very nervous about movement or heights (e.g. doesn’t like swings, nervous about stairs, etc.)
- Is constantly moving, to the point of being unsafe or bothering others (e.g. climbing on things, jumping from great heights, spinning, running, banging head, can’t stop moving)
- Over-sensitive to light (squints or covers eyes when others have adjusted to the light)
- Enjoys looking at things in an odd way, or in a repetitive way (e.g. flicks lights on and off, holds toys or fingers up close to his eyes, watches ceiling fans, etc.)
- Seems extremely clumsy for his age
- Does not seem to notice pain