Sensory Challenges

Sensory Processing is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Sensory processing challenges are common in neurodivergent people for example autism, ADHD, OCD but may also be present in children without a diagnosis. 

Sensory challenges are usually identified in the toddler years, when it becomes apparent that a child has an unusual aversion to noise, light, tight fitting clothes that are irritating.


Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a condition in which a person is unable to use the information gathered with the senses for easy functioning in everyday life because they find it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses. The response to these these challenges can be mild to extreme

  • Muscle tone (frequently too low tone),
  • Fatigue,
  • Motor clumsiness,
  • Poor sight and movement coordination,
  • Walking on tip-toes,
  • Balance disorders,
  • Poor feeling of pain or temperature,
  • Challenges using cutlery or scissors,
  • Challenges with grip on pencils or pens,
  • Difficulty learning how to read or write,
  • Difficulty with concentration,
  • Withdrawal from social contacts,
  • Difficulty following instructions,
  • Challenges learning how to ride a bicycle,
  • Hypersensitivity to light,
  • Fascination with lights, fans and water,
  • Hypersensitivity to sounds,
  • Avoiding group play,
  • Remarkably high or low level of activity,
  • Self-harm or aggression towards others,
  • Low self-esteem, withdrawal attitude,
  • Avoiding physical contact with people
  • Avoiding messy play such as sand and paints,
  • Child may respond strongly to stimuli on their face, hands and feet,
  • Difficulties with tasting new foods,
  • Difficulties with new clothes
  • Sensativities to seems and tags in clothes.
  • Speech disorders,
  • Strong aversion to brushing teeth, washing face, combing, cutting nails or hair,
  • Child can refuse to wear certain clothes or insist on wearing long sleeves/trouser legs so that the skin would not be exposed to stimuli.
The senses consist not only of Touch, Hearing, Vision, Taste, Smell; but also the Vestibular and Proprioceptive Senses, which detect the pull of gravity and the movements of our body in relation to the earth and the space around us.

A Child with Tactile Dysfunction may:

  • avoid being touched
  • dislike being held
  • challenges with cutting hair and nails
  • dislike taking a shower and/or having hair washed
  • dislikes when touched even in a friendly way
  • may react aggressively when touched unexpectedly
  • dislike affection
  • avoid messy play
  • avoids barefoot
  • prefers body fully clothed even when hot.
  • excessively ticklish
  • withdraws from situations
  • avoids sitting close to other children


A Child with Vestibular Dysfunction may:

  • be very active (on the go)
  • needs to keep moving in order to function
  • difficulty paying attention
  • craves intense movement such as jumping on furniture
  • risk taking during play
  • be accident-prone
  • enjoy spinning for long periods of time
  • become anxious when feet leave the ground
  • have a great fear of climbing/falling
  • dislikes having head upside down
  • avoids jumping activities
  • cautious when using stairs
  • avoids to walk along uneven surfaces


A Child with Proprioceptive Dysfunction may:

  • have difficulty with body awareness
  • have difficulty planning new movements
  • have difficulty knowing where his body is in relation to others and objects
  • chew on un-edible objects (pica)
  • stamp feet on the floor when walking
  • deliberately crashes into objects
  • hold pencils too lightly or too hard
  • has difficulty with handwriting and drawing
  • uses a lot of force when playing with toys and may break them
  • difficulty lifting objects

A Child with Auditory Processing Dysfunction may:

  • have difficulty paying attention
  • be easily distracted with noise
  • cover ears to protect from sound
  • speak in a loud voice
  • may misunderstand verbal comunication
  • become upset in noisy places
  • difficult to understand when speaking
  • have difficulty looking and listening at the same time
  • have a poor vocabulary
  • difficulty with reading

A Child with Visual Processing Dysfunction may:

  • reverse letters and numbers
  • have difficulty with fine motor skills
  • struggle to stay within lines when colouring or writing
  • complain of seen double or blurred
  • have difficulty putting puzzles together
  • have difficulty copying from books
  • have hard time finding things
  • omits words when reading
  • may appear “disorientated”
  • may not understand concepts

A Child with Olfactory Dysfunction may:

  • dislike smells that others do not notice
  • refuse to eat some foods because of their smell
  • be a picky eater
  • be irritated by smell of perfumes and deoderants
  • not like smells in supermarkets and public places
  • refuse to touch objects because of the way they smell

A Child with Sensory Modulation challenges may exhibit some Social/ Emotional responses:

  • low self-esteem
  • low self-confidence
  • seem anxious
  • have strict routines and diffuculty tollirating change
  • have difficulty playing with other children
  • get upset easily
  • not persist with tasks/ gives up easily
  • be stubborn or uncooperative
  • have frequent meltdowns
  • have difficulty making friends
  • avoid expressing emotions
  • need adult reassurance/guidance to play
  • have difficulty interacting with other children
  • Flits from one activity to another
A Child with Gustatory Dysfunction may:
  • gag with food textures
  • avoid certain tastes
  • be a picky eater
  • crave certain foods
  • may mouth/lick/chew nonfood objects
  • have difficulty with sucking, chewing, and swallowing


Hyper means excess or exaggeration (oversensitivity). Hypersensitive children tend to avoid sensations.

Hypo means under or beneath (under sensitivity). Hyposensitive children can appear sensory seeking because their sensory systems require a lot of stimulation to register the feeling and process it.

Some children may adopt an array of coping statagies such as holding their ears where as some children may become overwhelled by the changes in the enviroment and melt down.