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Sensitivities & Symptoms

The following is a checklist of possible signs that a child may have Sensory Integration Disorder. Because this disorder manifests itself differently in each child, these lists serve only as a sample. They are by no means inclusive, and do not necessarily mean a child has this disorder, only that a further evaluation by a licensed professional may be in order.

Motor Planning Issues

  • difficulty climbing in and out of cars
  • difficulty going up and down stairs
  • falls out of chairs
  • walks into objects
  • difficulty using “pull toys”
  • problems using tricycles, bikes
  • continues to have accidents after being fully potty trained
  • trouble engaging successfully in sports
  • approaches an activity each time as if it were the first time
  • strong preferences or aversions to playground equipment
  • difficulty doing puzzles-manipulating pieces or determining where pieces belong
  • difficulty guiding food to mouth
  • unable to use scissors in an age-appropriate manner


  • strong clothing preferences
  • dislikes sleeves touching wrists/only wears long or short sleeves
  • sensitive to collars touching neck
  • does not want to wear a belt or anything that ties around the waist
  • is bothered by seams in clothing
  • prefers cotton
  • experiences difficulty manipulating buttons, zippers, snaps or ties
  • wants all tags in clothing removed
  • wants feet and body totally covered or uncovered
  • insists on wearing a coat with the hood up in spite of hot weather
  • insists on wearing a T-shirt in spite of cold weather


  • sensitive to temperature
  • sensitive to texture
  • heightened awareness of flavor/ lack of awareness of flavor
  • difficulty manipulating eating utensils
  • frequently spills both food and drinks
  • chews with mouth open
  • bites fingers and tongue while eating
  • dribbles food and drink down chin
  • drops food on the floor unintentionally
  • dislikes carbonated beverages

Self-Care Skills

  • dislikes brushing teeth
  • dribbles toothpaste out of mouth, down chin, onto clothes
  • avoids washing and combing hair
  • avoids having fingernails and toenails clipped
  • problems self-dressing
  • trouble locating opening for sleeve in shirt
  • puts shirt on backwards
  • places two legs in one pant leg consistently
  • difficulty with zippers, buttons or snaps
  • difficulty pulling on socks and shoes
  • problems learning how to tie/buckle shoes
  • dislikes having nose and ears cleaned
  • aversion to having feet touched
  • under-responsive or over-responsive to the need to urinate or defecate

Muscle Tone

  • poor posture
  • poor strength and endurance
  • rests head on hands often
  • legs hang, rather than wrap, around someone’s hips when carried
  • distorted sense of heaviness when carrying things
  • difficulty grasping and holding objects for any length of time


  • sensitive to air and object temperature
  • prefers luke
  • warm or cold food or baths/prefers unusually hot food or baths
  • lack of awareness/heightened awareness of body temperature
  • overdresses or underdresses for the weather

As a Child

  • easily distracted
  • difficulty prioritizing stimuli
  • problems following directions
  • dislikes sudden changes in plans and routine
  • poor speech or articulation
  • stubborn
  • erratic sleep patterns
  • sensitive to loud noise and commotion
  • craves touching/avoids touching
  • unusually high or unusually low energy level
  • “fall apart” on a regular basis
  • Difficulty making choices when confronted with several options
  • Immature
  • Short attention
  • span in group setting/good attention span as an individual
  • May appear clumsy or “spacey”
  • Impulsive
  • May speak unusually loudly all the time
  • Distorted perception
  • Misses when placing an object on a table
  • Bumps into people and things

A. Jean Ayres, Sensory Integration and the Child, p. 161

Anderson, Elizabeth and Pauline Emmons. 2004. Unlocking the Mysteries of Sensory Dysfunction. A Resource for anyone who works with, lives with, a child with sensory issues. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons. p. 27 to p. 29