5 Signs Your Child May Have a Sensory Processing Disorder

This is great info! If you feel your child may have SPD, (Sensory Processing Disorder) consult with your pediatrician and share your concerns. Your child may need an assessment and intervention with an occupational therapist. 


by Karen Spisak |guest writer for The Snap Mom

I have always believed in a mom’s intuition. You are your child’s voice and best advocate. The following are some red flags that may point to a SPD.

1. Feeding/food difficulties or “picky eater”

Infant- Difficulty nursing due to poor muscle tone, poor endurance, poor lip closure, or strong gag reflex. Infant does not settle down, wriggles constantly, and does not calm down in response to moms voice or touch. Excessive crying that can continue days and weeks.

Toddlers- Toddlers with SPD will only eat foods with a certain texture (soft, hard, or crunchy) or color, and totally avoid all other foods. While others may prefer only hot or cold food. Some children with a severe oral sensitivity may eat only 2-3 specific foods for their daily diet. Please note that children who have these sensitivities do not respond to punishment and often can gag just at the sight or smell of certain foods.

2. Discomfort during daily grooming:

Many babies/toddlers with SPD may display fussiness at every diaper change regardless of time of day and any or all of mom’s best efforts. Toddlers may experience extreme distress specifically during hair washing and brushing, hair cutting, tooth brushing and nail clipping. Many parents of these kids will totally avoid haircuts due to the trauma it involves.

3. Meltdowns in public:

Infants- Infants who demonstrate excessive crying and fussiness and are unable to self-soothe with a thumb, pacifier, blanket, or favorite toy. They may arch their backs when you pick them up and seem to dislike cuddling or being held.

Toddlers-Many children with SPD are very sensitive to crowds because of the physical proximity of people, noise or even smell. Going to the mall, restaurant or a birthday party for children with SPD can be very overwhelming. These children will experience all the different sensations and since they are unable to process these, it will result in what is perceived as a total meltdown. Meltdowns that are out of proportion to the stimuli’s or that last for hours often indicate a sensory processing problem.

4. Self-injurious behavior/constantly in motion:

These children often participate in what can be perceived as self-injurious behavior (banging head against floor or wall, scratching their skin or biting themselves or others). These children are desperately seeking sensory input to help them navigate their environment. They are often trying to find out where their own body is in space and where spaces begin and end. Children, who spin excessively, crash and run into objects are craving that deep pressure that allows them to feel “normal.” These children can learn to use tools in their environment to provide them with the same “input” in a more socially acceptable manner. (Trampolines, chew toys or jewelry, crash mats, tire swings, spinning boards, etc.)

5. Avoiding “dirty” play:

Children with SPD often avoid all outside play. They will not engage in dirty play such as play dough, playing in the mud, building sandcastles or decorating cookies etc. These children have sensory defensiveness and cannot tolerate “dirty” hands. These are typically the kids that wash their hands often and shy away from other kids on the playground. Children with SPD will not play with their toys appropriately or in the manner that they were intended for and often end up breaking many of their toys.

This truly was a challenge to note only 5 signs of SPD.

Sensory Processing Disorder is an umbrella classification for many sensory difficulties, and it is always on a continuum. Young children may display many of the above behaviors for a short period of time, but usually move on from this particular behavior as they find other activities in their environment to explore.

Children that display some of these behaviors for an extended period of time usually do so because they are unable to process their environment in a meaningful manner. (They are communicating this to us every day). As children get older, these underlying sensory difficulties often cause learning, behavioral and social difficulties. I hope this article will help moms who have had an idea that something may be wrong the encouragement to express those concerns to their pediatrician.
Many children with SPD have great success with Occupational Therapy. Occupational Therapists can teach them numerous ways to get the input they crave and need on a daily basis to function and navigate through life. We call this a sensory diet and each child’s sensory diet is based on that child’s individual needs. As children get older they start to understand their own needs and automatically gravitate towards those activities and jobs.

A few Ideas: Caffeine, running, yoga, chewing gum, drinking a cold glass of water, chewing ice, reading a book before bed, listening to loud/soft music, putting on a nice warm robe, hot bubble bath etc.… these are all ways we as adults use to regulate our own sensory systems everyday. Kids sometimes need similar strategies.

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