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Sensory with Sallerson: Red Flags

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If not addressed appropriately, sensory issues can affect how a child learns, communicates or interacts with others. In this week’s post, Sensory with Sallerson  tackles the question below. Sallerson reiterates the tools by Occupational therapist, Diana Henry MS, OTR/L.

What behaviors indicate sensory issues?

Defensive vs. Over Responsive

The child responds to sensation from just one sensory system or from multiple sensory systems faster with more intensity or for longer duration than peers.
  • Covers ears with loud noises
  • Sensitivity to bright light
  • Fears movement or changes of position
  • Avoids touching certain textures
  • Does not like to get messy
  • Has strong clothing preferences
  • Does not like to be touched unexpectedly
  • Has poor tolerance of grooming activities
  • Is often irritable, aggressive, impulsive and moody
  • Has poor tolerance to transitions
  • Frequently cries and is hard to console
  • Does not like to be held or cuddled
  • Needs help to fall asleep and stay asleep
  • Exhibits extreme separation anxiety
  • Has difficulty transitioning to new foods.
  • Does not like the feel, taste, sight, or smell of certain foods
Poor Registration Sensory /Under-Responsive
The child does not respond to and seems apathetic or indifferent to sensory experiences.
  • Has a delayed reaction time
  • Is slow to respond to name
  • Seems unaware of the environment, wanders aimlessly
  • Has a high pain tolerance
  • Does not sense when the diaper is wet or dirty
  • Does not feel clothing twisted on the body
  • Does not feel food on the face or in the mouth or dirt on the hands
  • Does not seem to notice when touched by others
  • Has a flat affect much of the time
  • Is hard to engage, may observe but not participate
  • Is unaware of body sensations such as temperature or hunger
  • Does not seem to notice noxious odors
  • Appears slow, unmotivated, unaware, or withdrawn
  • Seems to be in a fantasy world
  • Is slow to respond and seems sleepy at times
Sensory Seeking
The child seems to have an insatiable desire for strong levels of sensation.
  • Has a high activity level, seldom sits still
  • Touches everything
  • Hangs on people/objects
  • Smells or mouths everything
  • Takes excessive risks that compromise personal safety
  • Prefers foods with strong flavors
  • Often mouths or licks non-food items
  • Seeks out loud noises
  • Likes to watch bright/spinning objects
  • Is excessively affectionate
  • May be demanding or hard to calm
  • Is a risk taker
  • Intrudes on others
  • May be kicked out of child care or expelled from preschool
  • Always on the go seeking all kinds of movement activities
Sub types of sensory-based motor disorders;
Postural disorder:
The child has difficulty stabilizing the body while resting/moving and has difficulty using both sides of the body together.
  • Fears movement due to inadequate postural control
  • Does not like “tummy time”
  • Has decreased muscle tone
  • Seems weak compared to peers
  • Loses balance easily
  • Tires easily/has poor endurance
  • Frequently trips and falls
  • Appears lazy and unmotivated
  • Has difficulty using both hands or feet at the same time (bilateral coordination)
  • Avoids movement activities such as swinging or climbing
The child has difficulty conceiving, planning, organizing and carrying out a sequence of novel or unfamiliar actions.
  • Is clumsy
  • Eats messily
  • Has a disheveled appearance
  • Uses toys the same way over and over
  • Is rigid in play/routines
  • Frustrates easily
  • Has trouble maneuvering around obstacles
  • Has difficulty following directions for activities that require more than one step
  • Breaks things unintentionally
  • Has trouble learning new skills
  • Is disorganized
  • Prefers sedentary activities
  • Has delays in speech and/or motor skills ranging from mild to severe
  • Seems clumsy and has difficulty figuring out how to play with new toys
The child has difficulty discerning specific qualities of one or more sensations.
  • Has a hard time finding things in competing backgrounds
  • Has a hard time discriminating how close/far/deep/etc. something is
  • Does not appear to hear, even though hearing is fine
  • Thinks you said something else, mixes up words
  • Has trouble deciding which sounds are important and which sounds are not important
  • Has speech that is difficult to understand
  • Breaks toys
  • Hold things too tightly or too loosely
  • Not feel clothing twisted on body
  • Has trouble knowing what is in hands without looking
  • Colors or draws with pressure that is too hard or too soft
  • Has trouble with clothing fasteners
  • Difficulty discriminating between tastes and/or smells
  • Gets lost easily
  • Has trouble judging body in space, bumps into things, or trips
  • Misjudges movements (under or over shoots)
  • Moves awkwardly
  • Has difficulty telling if pants are wet or dry

Diana has several books written for teachers, parents and therapists which help to put this information into simple to understand order with lots of activities to help the child. For more information and for more helpful tools please visit www.ateachabout.com.