Sensory Signals Vs. Behavior Issues

Sensory Signals

One thing we often hear from our families who come in for intake is that they’re frustrated—they’ve been to so many doctors, and their child has had so many tests, and in the end it all came down to sensory signals. They feel like they’ve been on a two-year mission to find an answer for something that turned out to be quite simple.

Sensory signals are a specialized area of occupational therapy. Sensory problems can manifest themselves, and usually do manifest themselves, in problematic behaviors. It’s like anything else—if you’re uncomfortable in your own body, or not feeling well, that’s going to come out in behavior. That’s typically the way small children are, even as babies. Fussy babies are fussy for a reason. Fussy children and children who aren’t compliant, aren’t compliant for a reason. There’s usually a reason for everything, and that reason can be sensory.

All children, as they develop, have times when their behavior is not good. That’s normal! However, our sensory kids have extraordinary problems with this all the time. And believe me, if sensory problems are an issue you know it, because you are managing your life and your schedule around your child. So whenever you feel like you are managing your schedule around your child more than your child being able to join in and adapt to your schedule, that’s usually a strong indication that there are some sensory issues.

What to look for:

If you get a chance to visit us, you’ll see a poster in our waiting room that shows the different sensory issues you can have. Remember, many kids have problems in these areas at some point in their development, but that usually goes away, like a phase. With our sensory kids, these are long-term issues that do not go away. Here are some examples of sensory issues you will see on our chart:

  • Trouble with their hair being brushed, or washed
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to sounds
  • Some don’t like to have their teeth brushed
  • They don’t want to get their hair cut
  • They don’t want to get their nails clipped
  • Some of them don’t want to bathe
  • Some are very sensitive to clothing textures

Check out the poster when you are in our waiting room—it’s a nice resource.

We also have a checklist that we oftentimes give to our families. This checklist is broken down developmentally, so we have questions for infants/toddlers, for the preschool child, for the school-age child, and for the adults/adolescents. 

Some examples of items on the checklist for infants and toddlers are: 

  • “My infant is extremely irritable when I dress him or her/seems to be uncomfortable in clothes.”
  • “My infant/toddler resists cuddling, and will back away from the person holding him.” 

Examples of preschool questions:

  • “My child is unaware of being touched or bumped unless done with extreme force or intensity.”
  • “My child seems unsure of how to move his or her body in space and is clumsy and awkward.”
  • “My child is in constant motion.”

On our school-age checklist we have: 

  • “Slow to learn new activity.”
  • “My child craves roughhousing or tackling.”

On the adult/adolescent checklist: 

  • “I’m oversensitive to environmental stimulation.” 
  • “I feel very lethargic and slow in starting my day.”

So these are just a few indicators for you to look at and consider, and we would be happy to talk to you about the whole checklist. Please go to our website because we have further information about that. And you’re welcome to come in or give us a call and chat about any concerns you might have. But sometimes it’s as simple as a little sensory therapy!

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