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Home > Is it a Behavior or a Sensory Disorder?

Is it a Behavior or a Sensory Disorder?

Children with SPD (Sensory Processing Disoder) often display very specific sensory difficulties that can look like behaviors:


  • Responds negatively to unexpected or loud noises
  • Holds hands over ears
  • Cannot filter out background noise
  • Seems oblivious within an active environment



  • Prefers to be in the dark or severe fear of the dark
  • Hesitates going up and down steps
  • Avoids bright lights or busy places like Walmart (acts worse when in a busy place like a store or eating out)
  • Stares intensely at people or objects
  • Avoids eye contact



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


Body Position:

  • Continually seeks out all kinds of movement activities
  • Hangs on other people, furniture, objects, climbs everything, seeks crazy amounts of movement
  • Seems to have weak muscles, tires easily, has poor endurance
  • Walks on toes
  • Avoided belly time or creeping stages 



  • Becomes anxious or distressed when feet leave the ground
  • Avoids climbing or jumping
  • Avoids playground equipment
  • 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 diaper changes



  • 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, etc. 


Attention, Behavior, 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 self regulation- meltdowns that last over 20 minutes- upset easily and frequently 



Related Topics:

ADHD and Gifted

Calming Spaces

Children with poor motor coordination will show behaviors to avoid harder tasks.

Joint and Muscle Activity

Movement is the Key to Learning

OT and SI Information Packet

The Sensory Sensitive Child

Therapeutic Listening

Transitions and Related Behaviors

Fidget Toys

Oral Vibration

Why They Can't Sit Still

Behavior Interventions

In Service for Teachers on "Is it Sensory or Behavior"

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