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As a therapist, I’m often faced with the question: behavior or sensory?

One child chews on his clothes.  Another child hates to wear jeans.
One child hates the feeling of grass on her feet.  Another child won’t eat certain foods.
One child doesn’t like loud noises.  Another child has frequent meltdowns over seemingly small things.

why children yell
I know, from my background, that these issues all stem back to the central nervous system. The central nervous system of the body receives messages from the senses of the body and uses that information to act inappropriately.
However, in some children, these sensory signals received by the central nervous system do not become organized into an appropriate response. This can make even the simplest things like getting dressed or eating dinner feel challenging.

These are all part of sensory behaviors.  As a parent or caregiver, you can feel helpless as you watch your child struggle.

As a teacher, I was familiar with children with different issues: behavior, sensory and more.
As a therapist, I was able to dive into each of these things even more.
As a mother, I was able to recognize them when I saw different behaviors in our own children.

I asked my friend Sharla (co-author of Sensory Processing Explained) if she had any information that I could share with you (She works with children with sensory processing disorder, including three of her own children):

Signs that a child may have sensory issues. (Some of the items on the list seem to contradict each other. That’s because, in each of the sensory systems, your child can be hypersensitive or hyposensitive, meaning that they can be sensory seeking or sensory avoiding. To make things even more confusing, a child can be sensory seeking in one sensory system and sensory avoiding in another!)

Signs to watch for:
Does this child…

  • Chew on their sleeves or pencils
  • Complain of tags or seams in clothing or socks
  • Seem hungry all the time or never seem hungry
  • Have a hard time falling asleep
  • Cover their ears to block out the noise
  • Spin in circles and never get dizzy
  • Bounce off the walls
  • Hide under desks or tables
  • Have frequent meltdowns over seemingly small things
  • Seem overly picky or have a sensitivity to food textures or tastes
  • Want to wear gymnastic suits or bathing suits rather than clothes
  • Get distracted by background noise
  • Complain of headaches
  • Avoid getting their hands or face messy
  • Need to touch everything
  • Seem to not understand their own strength
  • Avoid hugs or hug too hard
  • Have difficulty concentrating
  • Cry about lights or sun being too bright
  • Fidget
  • Tire easily
  • Complain often of being too hot or too cold
  • Avoid grooming
  • Have a super high or super low pain tolerance
  • Gag easily
  • Avoid or seek out certain smells or textures
  • Have poor body awareness
  • Seem clumsy
  • Accidentally break things
  • Take their shoes and socks off at every chance
  • Hang upside down
  • Fear climbing or spinning
  • Constantly moving
  • Prone to motion sickness or becomes dizzy easily
  • Wet the bed
  • Rage
  • Speak loudly (does not seem to have volume control)

My friends have come out with a Resource Collection that I will be using with my therapy clients.  I’m an affiliate so I purchased it before sharing it here, but I’ve found it to be SO helpful and wanted to share it here.
It is an AMAZING resource that will help any parent or teacher…  Find out about it here. 

Or you can start with this quiz… 
Behavior report (how to change the behavior)


Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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  1. At what age does this apply? I have a toddler (literally just turned 3) and everything causes a meltdown. I kind of assumed (maybe wrongly?) that as she gets older she will communicate better and not melt down as frequently.

  2. I really would like to get that sensory play book but don’t know where to get it from. I have missed the download date but can you help.?