The following is a checklist of possible signs that a child may have Sensory
It is by no means inclusive. The purpose of this list is to provide a brief
overview of some of the behaviors most commonly associated with sensory integration
problems. Keep in mind that some of the behaviors listed below, by themselves,
do not necessarily point to a diagnosis of Sensory
Integration Disorder. Not every learning disability has an underlying sensory
disorder. On the other hand, just because a child has already been diagnosed
with a learning disability does not mean that this same child does not also
have sensory integration issues. While sensory integration problems manifest
themselves somewhat differently in each child, the following symptoms may
indicate that this disorder is present:
1. Overly sensitive to touch, movement, sights or sounds
2. Under-reactive to sensory stimulation
3. Activity level that is unusually high or unusually low
4. Coordination problems
5. Delays in speech or language skills
6. Delays in motor skills or academic achievement
7. Poor organization of behavior
8. A poor self-concept
What are the main characteristics of a child with a Sensory Integration
Disorder? What red flags should parents be aware of that might indicate that
their child, or a child they know, may have a sensory integration problem?
1. Overly sensitive to touch, movement sights
These symptoms can
be seen in behaviors such as irritability or withdrawal
when touched, strict
avoidance of certain clothing or foods solely on the basis
of texture, and a fearful
reaction to ordinary activities such as bathing or brushing
to sensory stimulation.
A child who is under-reactive to sensory stimulation will usually seek out
experiences. For example,
a child with an under-responsive tactile sense may
constantly have his hands all over
you. This child might also seem oblivious to pain.
Some children even fluctuate between
being under-responsive and being over -
3. Activity level that is unusually high or unusually
This behavior can be seen in the
child who is constantly on the move and appears
to be "all over the place" or,
in the child who fatigues easily and is difficult to motivate.
Again, a child can fluctuate between
the two extremes.
4. Coordination problems.
These problems can be seen in either a child's gross
or fine motor activities, or both.
In addition, some children will
have exceptionally poor balance and experience great
difficulty learning to do something
that involves motor planning.
5. Delays in speech or language skills.
Because speech and language problems are more obvious,
they are often the first
about a child's development to
be addressed. It is not uncommon for the parents of
a child with Sensory Integration
Disorder to have their child initially evaluated for
a possible speech delay, only to
learn that the child is having difficulty in other areas
6. Delays in motor skills or academic achievement.
Since most schools shy away from any formal measure of academic achievement
the elementary level, these symptoms
are usually seen when a child participates in
projects where scissors, paint brushes
or markers are used. If a pre-school has an
indoor or outdoor play area, delays
may also show up when the child uses the
playground equipment. In an older child,
there are usually problems with academic
achievement despite the child testing
within the range of normal intelligence.
7. Poor organization of behavior.
may be highly distractible, especially in a group setting, and might be
described as "all over the place." In addition,
the child may show a lack of planning
and therefore appear extremely impulsive. A
child may have trouble adjusting to new
situations or react to failure with frustration,
aggression or withdrawal.
8. Poor self-concept
Because of the complex nature of Sensory
Integration Disorder, a child does not
only feel "out of sorts," the child
can, and usually does, feel downright awful.
As A. Jean Ayres wrote in
her book Sensory Integration and the Child , there are
three things that contribute to this
negative self-image: "the way in which the
nervous system is functioning, the feelings
of frustration and inadequacy that
when a child cannot do things well, and other
people's negative reactions to what
the child does."¹, Most children with sensory
integration problems are well aware
that some tasks are more difficult for them
than they are for other children, they just
don't understand why.
¹A. Jean Ayres, Sensory Integration and the Child, p. 161
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