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What Are Childhood Sensory Issues?
Childhood sensory issues often start to creep up around the ages of two to three years old. Parents often start to notice if their child has unusual sensitivities to different common things that are not a problem for most children their age.
Sensory issues are separated into two different categories which are hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity.
Hypersensitivity is when the child in question is being overly sensitive to common sensory situations. And in these instances, the child will attempt to avoid these sensory situations that cause them the sensitivity. This is also called sensory avoiding.
Hyposensitivity -on the other hand, is the opposite problem. It is where the child is undersensitive to stimuli and is seeking sensory input. This can also be called sensory seeking behavior.
*This page may contain affiliate links, however, I will never recommend anything that I do not believe in and use myself. You can read more about my disclosure policy here. Also, I am not a doctor or healthcare professional. These are just my experiences with my children that both have sensory issues. Please seek your doctor’s advice for proper a diagnosis of your child.
If My Child Has Sensory Issues Are They Autistic?
Children with autism often have sensory issues and noticing these sensory issues is often one of the first signs of autism which leads most parents to get their child evaluated and later diagnosed with autism.
But children can have a sensory disorder without having autism. One such disorder is called Sensory Processing Disorder which is where a child will just have difficulty with sensory situations and not have autism.
However no matter what the diagnosis will turn out to be, if your child is experiencing some of these signs of sensory issues it is best to talk with your pediatrician about your concerns.
1. Oral Fixation – Chewing Non-Food Objects
So I know that this one may be a very difficult sensory issue to nail down since may children and adults even chew on non-food objects. Whether it is to relieve stress, from boredom, or they just like the way it feels – it may be a sign that your child has an oral fixation or a need to chew on objects.
When we noticed our daughter chewing on the collars of her shirts we didn’t think anything of it but as it happened, again and again, we realized that most of the time when it happened she didn’t know that she was doing it. She seemed to only want to chew while she was writing or was busy with an activity.
2. Sensitivity to Loud Sounds
Does your child cover their ears when you turn the vacuum cleaner on? Or get upset when you put a dish in the sink too loudly?
Our kids both have issues with certain loud sounds. This is due to having a type of hypersensitivity to loud noises and it honestly causes them some distress when they hear a loud noise that they didn’t expect.
My three year old even had difficulty with watching fireworks due to the loud popping noises that when off every time a firework shot up.
3. Food Aversions
Do you have a picky eater on your hands that cannot take the texture or taste of some foods?
We often thought that our children were being just overly picky about what they would and would not eat, but then discovered that some children have food aversions where they truly cannot eat some foods due to the taste or texture.
4. Sensitivity to How Things Feel
One of the most common sensory issues that many parents face is how things feel on their child’s skin.
Whether its sensitivity with certain types of clothing material, the tags on the clothing, or even if it’s long or short sleeve, shorts or pants – these are sensory issues to how things feel and how your child can tolerate them on their skin.
We noticed that our 1-year-old could not stand if anything got onto his bare feet. Even a crumb. He would say “uh-oh toe” and hold his foot up to us as if something was wrong with it.
He’s also had issues with clothing since he turned two years old. It started with him always wearing shoes around the house. And then he began only wanting to wear sweatpants and completely rejects wearing jeans or khaki pants.
5. Difficulty With Social Situations
Does your child often sit on the sidelines and watch other children play without joining in?
Many children with sensory issues often have a hard time knowing how to join in and play with other children or they have a hard time dealing with other sensory issues that come along with playing with other children such as loud screams, touching, and just plain fear of being around others.
As soon as my first child could walk she was walking on her tiptoes. At first, we thought that she might have some type of physical issues with her calf muscles, but soon after learned that it was a sign of sensory issues.
Now 7 years later, she still walks on her tiptoes. Many children do this when they are inside due to how the floor feels.
7. Difficulty Falling Asleep
Just about every child has trouble falling or staying asleep at some point during childhood, but if your child has this going on every single night and nothing seems to help they may have some sensory issues and need some extra help to get to sleep.
Our daughter could not go to sleep and stay asleep for months. She woke us up many times throughout the night asking us to say another prayer or get her a drink, but we realized that she just wanted us in there because she was bored and could not get to sleep.
8. Poor Balance
Is your child accident-prone? Does it seem like they just bump into everything or fall over constantly?
If so your child may be suffering from poor balance or coordination due to some sensory issues. Some children have a hard time controlling their own body or judging how to walk around objects rather than into them.
9. Can’t Stop Touching People or Objects
Does it seem like your child cannot keep their hands off of objects? Or do they have no concept of personal space?
My youngest child feels the need to constantly be running his hands across items at the grocery store as if he has to touch every single one. It’s as if he cannot make it through the store without completing this task of feeling everything.
He also has no idea about personal space. Anytime someone he knows is at his level, he feels the need to get up in your face and rub his face against yours.
10. Overly Fidgety – Repetitive Movements
Whether its the leg shaking or twiddling with their fingers children do fidget sometimes.
But when it becomes very repetitive or constant it may be a sign of sensory issues that need to be overlooked.
Our younger child does lots of hand flapping – which is repetitively opening and closing their hands for no apparent reason. He also twiddles his fingers a lot which is often called stimming. Stimming is a repetitive behavior that provides some type of stimulation to that person.
11. Purposefully Crashing Into Objects
Does your child jump from one couch to the other or like to crash into things constantly?
Many children that have sensory issues will engage in sensory seeking behaviors that involve running or throwing themselves into something to feel the impact.
12. Difficulty With Change
Routine is key!
Of course, a routine is important for all children, but for children that have sensory issues, the routine is their lifeline. Making any little changes to routines can cause children with sensory problems to be very upset and have meltdowns.
Having their routine changed really does cause confusion and unexpected events which can lead to your child’s world feeling out of control.
13. Bothered By Bright Light
Does your child cover their eyes in the car or when they go outside?
Some children just have an extreme sensitivity to bright lights such as the sun. When our son started screaming about turning the sun off while we were driving in the car, we knew that something wasn’t right.
14. Is Overly Rough When Playing
Some children with sensory issues are just not very sensitive to touch and really do not know their own strength when it comes to playing with other children. Unfortunately, this often leads to rough playing and another child getting hurt unintentionally.
15. Often Breaks Toys Or Other Objects
Oh my if I could add up all of the things our children have broken, they would fill our whole house.
Children with sensory issues such as sensory seeking behaviors often feel the need to “pop” or “rip” things in their hands to get that stimulation. Whether it’s window blinds, pieces of paper, or toys sometimes we are at a loss when it comes to this sensory issue.
16. Fight or Flight
This is probably the most frightening sensory issue that I have experienced as a mom.
Children with sensory issues can feel the need to fight or flight when they are mad or sometimes for no reason at all.
Our oldest child used to take off inside stores, parking lots and even out of our home. It was as if she just had to run away for no apparent reason. This was such a hard time since I had to chase after her and often she would be fighting me the entire time.
Can A Child Outgrow Sensory Issues?
Most of the time sensory issues are identified during childhood and some are outgrown by adulthood. However, there are still some sensory issues that may travel from childhood and up through adulthood.
It really depends on the child and how they handle the sensory issues as they grow up.
How Can I Help My Child With Sensory Issues?
One of the best ways that I have found to help my children with sensory issues is through occupational therapy and also using therapy tools.