These sensory red flags may indicate that a child needs extra help or support to manage sensory processing concerns.
We’ve been working hard over the last year to bring you monthly posts about sensory processing and how the sensory systems relate to child development.
Each month, we’ve written a post about one of the sensory systems from our point of view as pediatric therapists and our friend Dayna, from Lemon Lime Adventures, has written a post about the same sensory system from her perspective as an educator and a mom of a child with sensory processing disorder.
In this series of child development resources about sensory processing, we’ve written about the tactile system, the auditory system, the proprioceptive system, the vestibular system, the oral sensory system, and the visual system.
Today, as a part of an even bigger series with over 40 other bloggers called Decoding Everyday Kid Behaviors, we’ll discuss sensory red flags – behaviors related to sensory integration that might indicate that it’s time to get some expert advice to help support your child’s sensory needs.
Sensory Red Flags
We all have our own unique preferences and aversions when it comes to the way perceive the sensory information in our surroundings. But for some children, these preferences and aversions can become problematic, leading to difficulty participating in everyday activities and routines.
The following behaviors are sensory red flags and may indicate that a child requires additional support.
-Extreme reactions (crying, screaming, running away) or significant difficulty with tolerating sudden noises, specific noises, crowds, and/or loud noises
-Startling easily, becoming agitated in noisy environments
-Distracted by all sounds
-Covering ears even at the anticipation of a sound or in uncertain/unfamiliar environments
-Difficulty responding to and following directions presented verbally
-Making constant noises (singing, humming, clicking)
-Not responding when name is called
-Constantly moving, fidgeting, spinning around
-Fearful of movement (e.g. stairs, playground equipment, swings)
-Uncoordinated, clumsy, bumping into things, falling, difficulty learning new motor tasks
-Slumping, slouching, leaning on desk or on walls when walking in the hallway
-Difficulty with maintaining balance when walking and during gross motor play
-Coloring/writing with heavy pressure or not enough pressure
-Pushing others, playing aggressively, constant roughhousing
-Doing everything with 100% force, not grading the force of movements adequately
-Crashing/falling on the floor constantly throughout the day
-Difficulty with body awareness (runs into objects/others)
-Appearing tired or sluggish (slumping and leaning)
-Easily distracted by surrounding visual stimuli (e.g. posters or art on the walls, activity in the room).
-Difficulty visually focusing on a task like coloring a picture or completing a worksheet
-Not noticing surroundings unless things are pointed out
-Staring intently at objects or becoming fixated on visual stimuli (e.g. fans, lights)
-Arranging objects in a specific way repeatedly (e.g. lining objects up, stacking objects up)
-Very reluctant to trying new foods, extremely picky eater
-Extreme resistance to oral sensory experiences like brushing teeth
-Refusal to use utensils to eat
-Choking or gagging during eating or brushing teeth
-Constant biting, chewing on, or mouthing hands, clothing, fingers, toys, and other objects
-Constantly making mouth noises (clicking, buzzing, humming)
-Stuffing mouth with food at mealtimes
-Difficulty with chewing or drinking from a cup or straw
-Avoiding getting hands or face messy, avoiding messy play
-Avoiding activities like fingerpainting, play dough, and eating messy foods
-Extreme reactions or tantrums during toothbrushing, bathing, haircuts, dressing
-Difficulty tolerating certain clothing, textures on skin (e.g. tags on clothing)
-Needing to touch everything and everyone (e.g. craving hugs and closeness with others, fidgeting with objects, seeking out textures and touch experiences)
When to Get Help
It’s time to get some help if your child is experiencing any of the behaviors described above (or behaviors in multiple sensory areas) to such a significant degree that it impacts his or her ability to:
-Interact with others
-Participate successfully at school
-Go out in public
-Tolerate basic self care and grooming experiences (bath/shower, brushing teeth, getting dressed)
-Attend family and other social events
-Eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight
-Get an adequate amount of sleep
Talk to your pediatrician about getting a referral to an occupational therapist who is trained to evaluate children’s specific sensory needs, provide therapeutic intervention to address them, and give you sensory input, strategies and suggestions to use at home.
Sensory Processing 101
Whether you are a parent, educator, caregiver, or therapist, Sensory Processing 101 is your starting point to gain a better understanding of sensory processing and the body’s sensory systems.
This comprehensive, full-color book contains 3 books in 1:
-Sensory Processing Explained: An explanation of each sensory system from a therapist’s point of view and from the perspective of a parent and educator
-Sensory Activities: Step-by-step instructions for activities you can use in everyday play with kids at home or at school to support the development of each sensory system
-Sensory Resources: Resources related to sensory processing, including support groups for parents and caregivers of children who have sensory needs, cheat sheets with quick overviews of each sensory system, and more.
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