Children with sensory processing issues often get labelled as difficult or poorly behaved. Their reaction to things can be confusing. Kids may be highly sensitive to the way clothing fits or complain about noise. They may have big reactions to simple tasks such as bathing and getting their face wet. These behaviours happen because the child is having trouble processing the incoming stimulation from the environment. The result of having sensory processing issues is stress behaviour; the brain is stressed by environmental signals and so it shuts down and that may look like angry outbursts or crying or running away.
In addition to the 5 senses, there are two internal senses that help humans navigate the world around them. These internal senses are like a radar to help us know where our body is in relation to the environment. When these systems are balanced, children can tolerate changes in the environment, they can ‘go with the flow’ of ill-fitting socks or deal with loud noises or manage a chaotic birthday party. When the systems are not in balance, children may seem clumsy or uncoordinated. It is because their brain is struggling to figure out its place in relation to its surroundings.
Hyposensitive kids need more stimulation. These kids are the ones that like to sit close to another person, they enjoy wrestling and pushing up against furniture or people. They may enjoy loud music or playing intense video games. In contrast, hypersensitive kids have trouble with too much stimulation; they want to retreat, and they are easily overwhelmed, especially in chaotic environments, such as a party or noisy classroom.
Some signs of sensory processing issues:
- Irritability or angry outbursts
- Sleep challenges
- Refusal to engage in certain activities
- Picky eater
- Gravitate to certain fabrics
- Picky about the way clothes fit