By: Red Door Pediatric Staff
As a parent, it can be incredibly frustrating and concerning when your child seems to be unable to calm down and is constantly “all over the place.”
While this behavior can have many different causes, one possibility to consider is that your child may be experiencing sensory processing issues. Here we’ll discuss what sensory issues are, what they might look like in your child, and what you can do to get help.
What are sensory processing issues?
Sensory processing issues (also known as sensory integration dysfunction) occur when a child’s brain has difficulty processing and organizing sensory information from their environment. Sensory information includes things like sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and textures. For most children, their brains are able to process this information without much difficulty, but for some children, this process can be overwhelming or confusing.
There are different ways that sensory processing issues can manifest. Some children may be hypersensitive to certain types of sensory input, meaning that they are easily overwhelmed or bothered by things that most others are not. For example, a child might be bothered by certain clothing textures or the sound of a vacuum cleaner. Other children may be hyposensitive, meaning that they seek out more sensory input than usual. For example, a child might enjoy roughhousing or chewing on objects.
How can I tell if my child has sensory processing issues?
It’s important to note that every child is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all description of what sensory processing issues look like. That being said, there are some common signs that your child may be experiencing sensory processing issues.
- Being easily overwhelmed or distracted by certain types of sensory input (e.g. bright lights, loud noises, strong smells)
- Avoiding certain textures or types of clothing
- Seeking out sensory input (e.g. spinning, jumping, touching everything)
- Having difficulty with transitions or changes in routine
- Having difficulty with fine motor tasks (e.g. writing, buttoning clothes)
- Having difficulty with gross motor tasks (e.g. coordination, balance)
If you notice any of these signs in your child, it’s worth considering whether they may be experiencing sensory processing issues.
Who can help me with this?
If you suspect that your child may be experiencing sensory processing issues, your child’s pediatrician or a pediatric occupational therapist can help you determine whether your child has sensory processing issues and can recommend strategies for managing these issues.
Occupational therapists are trained to work with children with sensory processing issues and can provide individualized treatment plans. These plans may include sensory integration therapy, which uses various activities to help children process sensory input more effectively. For example, a therapist might use a swing to help a child who seeks out movement, or a weighted vest to help a child who is easily overwhelmed by sensory input.
There are also things you can do at home to help your child manage sensory processing issues. These might include creating a sensory-friendly environment (e.g. reducing bright lights and loud noises), providing sensory tools (e.g. chew toys, fidgets), and creating a predictable routine.
If you find that your child is “all over the place” and having difficulty calming down, it’s worth considering whether sensory processing issues may be contributing to this behavior. While every child is different, there are some common signs to look out for, and healthcare providers, as well as special educators, can help you determine whether your child has sensory processing issues and recommend strategies for managing them. With the right support, your child can learn to manage their sensory processing issues and thrive.