5 Senses: Too Much, Too Little
Dr. Kristi Smith, D.Ed.   •   April 1, 2022

The world is an amazing place for children. Young children learn primarily through their senses the first five years of their life.  Children experience new and interesting things every day that stimulate their senses and enhance their experiences. All the information we receive every day helps to deepen our understanding of the world, but for some children this is not the case.

While an environment full of sensory stimulation is important for young children, there are exceptions. Some children can have a condition known as Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD for short. This means that all the information a child’s brain takes in through their five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell) can either over stimulate or under stimulate a child. Some children might find all these senses to be overwhelming to them while on the other side other children might find those senses underwhelming and need a higher level of interaction with those senses to engage them.

Possible signs a child may be oversensitive to sensory stimuli:

  • Clothing might feel itchy, scratchy, or irritating
  • Tags, specifically on clothing, may be an issue
  • Sounds and bright lights may be overwhelming
  • High or low temperature differences may be an issue
  • Balance can be an issue with child seeming clumsy all the time
  • Different food textures may be an issue for the child
  • Being in a crowd or big group might give anxiety
  • Overreacts to sudden movements or sounds that frighten them
  • Grooming such as brushing hair, brushing teeth, or cutting nails can be a struggle

Possible signs a child may be insensitive to sensory stimuli:

  • Does not pick up on social cues
  • Personal space may be something the child doesn’t understand
  • Under reactive to pain
  • Sleeping is a problem
  • Personal hygiene isn’t noticed (messy face or dirty hands)
  • Chews on belongings and hands
  • Seeks out adrenaline activities (jumping from high places, spinning, etc.)
  • Unable to quiet down and sit still
  • Seeking bright visual stimuli

If you believe your child shows several of the signs above, please talk to your pediatrician to about the possibility of your child having a Sensory Processing Disorder. If your child is diagnosed with SPD, there are a wide variety of therapies and supports that can be provided to your child.

Additional Resources:

 Link to additional information and upcoming free online webinar in March- https://www.additudemag.com/webinar/sensory-processing-disorder-adhd-support-child/?utm_source=eletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=webinar_february_2022&utm_content=022722&goal=0_d9446392d6-1e297ed7a9-288445429
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