Therapy Centre NI, Dungannon
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Sensory Integration Difficulties

How do I know my child has Sensory Integration Difficulties?

If you answer yes to any of these symptoms this may mean your child has an issue with either, Sensory Processing, Sensory Modulation, Praxis and Motor Coordination, postural control or Sensory sensitivities.


  • Avoids certain tastes/smells that are typically part of children's diets
  • Routinely smells non food objects or leaves the room when there are certain smells 
  • Seeks out certain tastes or smells- picky eater
  • Does not seem to smell strong odours or notices everything- smells foods before eating 

 Body Position

  • Continually seeks out all kinds of movement activities
  • Hangs on other people, furniture, objects, climbs on everything, seeks lots of movement all the time
  • Seems to have weak muscles, tires easily, has poor endurance, lies on the table, can’t sit upright for long. Lays in bed a lot
  • Walks on toes
  • Avoided tummy time or crawling
  • Was a bum shuffler


  • Becomes anxious or distressed when feet leave the ground
  • Avoids climbing or jumping
  • Avoids playground equipment
  • Trips over a lot, falls on the spot
  • Doesn’t like walking up steps or stairs.
  • Holds onto walls, furniture when walking around house
  • Seems awkward, uncoordinated in movements
  • Seeks all kinds of movement and this interferes with daily life
  • Takes excessive risks while playing, has no safety awareness
  • Fearful of head back movements or being laid down for nappy changes
  • Not able to hop on one foot or jump down steps


  • Avoids getting messy in foods, glue, sand, finger paint, tape
  • Is sensitive to certain fabrics (clothing, bedding)
  • Touches people and objects at an irritating level
  • Avoids going barefoot, especially in grass or sand
  • Has decreased awareness of pain or temperature
  • Severe fear of everyday self care activities, very picky dresser, avoids toothbrushing, hair brushing, wearing socks and shoes etc. 
  • Prefers thick, tight socks and tightly fitted shoes.

Attention, Behaviour and Social

  • Jumps from one activity to another frequently and it interferes with play
  • Has difficulty paying attention
  • Doesn't understand personal space
  • Seems anxious
  • Is accident prone
  • Has difficulty making friends 
  • Severe issues with regulation. Visibly distressed screaming shouting lasting over 20 minutes- upset easily and frequently 
  • Clingy and tearful. Wants parent close all the time
  • Isolates self and plays alone.


  • Can not use a scooter, trike or bicycle
  • Can not do up buttons, zips or tie shoe laces
  • Poor hand writing or awkward pencil grip
  • Not sure if left or right handed
  • Communication difficulties
  • Will not take part in sports or physical activity of any kind – individual or group


  • Withdrawn at home
  • Tearful and avoids playing, socialising, or being with their peers
  • Anxiety related to fear of going to play, primary, or secondary school,
  • School refusal
  • Evidence of very poor self-esteem, body consciousness,
  • Picking at or scratching the skin, pulling out hair
  • Self harm
  • Withdrawal from friends, social groups
  • Loss of pleasure in activities they used to love and participate in
  • Change of sleep pattern
  • Change of diet and eating pattern
Signs of Sensory Processing Disorder

Developmental Needs

The primary occupations of babies and children are playing, learning, and interacting with their family caregiv­ers and, eventually, their peers. Occupational therapy interventions address developmental milestones such as (but not limited to):

  • Movement to sit, crawl, or walk independently
  • Developing the ability to eat, drink, wash, and dress independently
  • Development of gross motor and fine motor skills
  • Building skills for sharing, taking turns and playing with peers

Occupational therapy practitioners have training in psychosocial and mental health conditions and are well suited to address children’s emotional needs as they relate to the sensory aspect of everyday activities and social interactions. For example, occupational therapy practitioners help children develop the ability to cope with sensory challenges and use sensory calming strategies to deal with frustration, defuse anger, and manage impulsivity in order to succeed at indi­vidual tasks and collaborative interactions at home, at school, and in the community.

Addressing Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing Disorders Across the Lifespan: The Role of Occupational Therapy

Sensory integration involves perceiving, modulating, organiz­ing, and interpreting sensations to optimize occupational performance and participation.  This includes vestibular (movement), proprioception (joint receptors, body awareness, position in space knowledge, grading of movement, muscle tone), touch, olfactory, auditory, visual, and oral senses.  

These sensations have to work as a team and integrate well in order to allow us to function normally. Well-regulated and appropriately functioning sensory systems contribute to important outcomes in social-emotional, physical and motor, communication, self-care, cognitive, and adaptive skills development and main­tenance. Deficits in sensory integration can pose challenges in performing activities of daily living (ADLs), in addition to de­velopment, learning, playing, working, socializing, and exhibit­ing appropriate behaviours across many environments (Schaff & Smith Roley, 2006).

Sensory integration and modulation disorders often lead children to have extreme over reactions to what others consider mild stimuli, or to completely shut down, be anxious, or disengage like many children with Autism.  These children are often stressed and overwhelmed.  

Some children are sensory cravers- they may crave too much movement & touch like many children with ADHD.

Differenc­es in interpretation of stimuli can impact motor skills and coordination, further limiting a child's development, especially with motor skills, much like children with developmental delays, low muscle tone and/or coordination issues (dyspraxia).

The sensory integration theory and intervention methods researched and developed by A. Jean Ayres, Ph.D., OTR/L, provide a neuroscience-based approach to addressing sensory integration concerns. Without intervention, issues in sensory integration continue into adulthood and have been reported to impact work performance, relationships, and general functional abilities (Kinnealey, Koenig, & Smith, 2011).  I am here to help!  

Most are familiar with the 5 basic senses, but the most powerful senses that act on our brain are actually those of vestibular (movement), proprioception (joint and muscle) & touch! The sensory sub-cortical processes need to be working well (such as sensory processing) to give the FOUNDATION for functional life skills on the higher levels.

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