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Top 10 red flags for sensory processing disorder

Published in Pediatrics, For the Health of It Author: Mary Pat Gohmann,OTR/L

One of the most common questions I get from parents is, “What should I look for if I think it’s a ‘sensory’ issue?” Below are some of the most common symptoms we see with sensory processing disorder.

  1. Difficulty with grooming. Does your child hate having baths, teeth brushed, hair and nails cut — maybe to point where it takes multiple people to accomplish the task?
  2. Picky eater. Does your child refuse to eat certain food textures (smooth, crunchy, lumpy) or flavors or temperatures? This goes beyond toddlers being picky eaters. A child might only eat crunchy foods or only beige starchy foods.
  3. Can’t be messy. Does your child freak out about getting a messy face or hands while eating or playing? Does your child need to change clothes if splashed with one spot of water?
  4. Fussy dresser. Does your child refuse to wear certain fabrics or styles of clothing?
  5. Dislikes tilting backward. Does your child seem fearful when you lean him/her backward to change diapers or rinse his/her hair?
  6. Fearful of leaving the ground. Does your child get scared while swinging or stepping off the curb?
  7. Continually moving. Is it almost impossible for your child to sit still for more than a minute or two? Is your child constantly climbing, jumping or crashing into things?
  8. Spins or swings excessively. Does your child randomly spin in circles or run around the room?
  9. Floppy. Does your child slouch or struggle to sit upright for long periods of time?
  10. Transition issues. Does your child have a difficult time stopping one activity to move to the next? Does your child have difficulty getting and staying asleep? Does your child have difficulty tolerating changes in routines or plans?

If you can relate to this list, talk to your child’s health care provider about getting a referral for a sensory evaluation from an occupational therapist.