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Children can present with different types of sensory difficulties . These include:

  • Hyper sensitivity: shown by dislike of sudden noises or avoidance of playground equipment.
  • Hypo sensitivity: not appearing to feel pain, chewing or other sensory seeking behaviours.
  • Motor planning (praxis): difficulty planning new movements or appearing clumsy.
  • Poor posture: difficulty sitting in one position for extended amounts of time or fidgeting.
  • Children who have difficulty regulating their sensory systems also often show signs of difficulty regulating their emotions.
  • Other indicators of sensory difficulties are the social, emotional and behavioural responses to sensory stimuli, which may include temper tantrums, crying easily, the inability to read signs of others or increased/decreased fear/anxiety.


Children who experience hyper sensitivity respond easily to sensory stimulation and can find it overwhelming. They may:

  • Be unable to tolerate bright lights and loud noises.
  • Be distracted by background noises that others don’t seem to hear.
  • Refuse to wear clothing because it feels scratchy or irritating-even after cutting out all the tags and labels-or shoes because they feel “too tight.”
  • Be fearful of surprise touch, and avoid hugs and cuddling even with familiar adults
  • Be overly fearful of swings and playground equipment
  • Often have trouble knowing where their body is in relation to other objects or people
  • Bump into people and things and appear clumsy
  • Have trouble sensing the amount of force they’re applying; for example, they may rip the paper when erasing, pinch too hard or slam down objects.
  • Become highly dysregulated when overwhelmed.
  • Run off, or bolt, when they’re overwhelmed to get away from whatever is distressing them.

Children who experience hypo sensitivity may want to seek out more sensory stimulation. They may:

  • Be very fidgety and unable to sit still.
  • Have a constant need to touch people or textures, even when it’s not socially acceptable.
  • Not understand personal space at an age appropriate level.
  • Not understand their own strength.
  • Love jumping, bumping and crashing activities.
  • Enjoy deep pressure like tight bear hugs.
  • Crave fast, spinning and/or intense movement.
  • Love being tossed in the air and jumping on furniture and trampolines.
  • Have an extremely high tolerance for pain.

Last updated 10 September 2020

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