Table Of Content

Signs and Sensory Issues: Examples Parents Should Look For

Updated May 15, 2024

Reviewed By: Vanessa Leikvoll

Table Of Content

Raising children with sensory issues can be a challenging journey, both emotionally and physically, for both kids and their families. Sensory overload and meltdowns, which involve screaming and flailing tantrums at even the slightest triggers, can make parents feel judged, dismissed, and hopeless. 

If you find yourself struggling with a child with sensory overload, you’re not alone. Research shows that as many as 16% of children in the U.S. have sensory issues. 

While conventional medicine often dismisses these concerns as something your child will eventually “grow” out of, care options that consider established research offer far more hope and direction. 

In this article, we’ll explore sensory issues examples, how to spot them, and how Neurologically Focused Chiropractic Care can help diagnose and treat this neurological dysfunction. 

What Are Sensory Issues?  

Sensory issues, or Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), refer to challenges in processing input from our senses. The sensory experience involves external stimuli like sights, sounds, smells, and touch, along with internal cues signaling hunger, thirst, and pain. Children with SPD also tend to struggle with movement, balance, and position sense. 

Our nerves and specialized tissues, called mechanoreceptors, detect external stimuli and relay that information to the brain for interpretation to decide what to respond to and how. However, children with sensory issues have difficulty appropriately perceiving and reacting to sensory information.

Instead, children with sensory issues may experience discomfort, distress, or overreact to sensory input (such as sights, sounds, and smells) that other kids find unremarkable. This is because the neurosensory pathways that carry the stimuli input do not efficiently connect, resulting in “mixed signals.” 

Children with Sensory Processing Disorder typically struggle with sensory issues like auditory hypersensitivity, tactile sensitivity, and sensitivity to personal space. They may also lack appropriate cues or overreact when frustrated. 

Additionally, children with sensory issues may struggle with eating certain foods, wearing certain clothes, brushing their teeth, bathing, or riding in the car.

These challenges are also commonly found with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). 

Sensory Issues Examples

Sensory issues encompass a spectrum, with children demonstrating overresponsiveness (hypersensitivity) and sensory overload or underresponsiveness (hyposensitivity) in one or more sensory domains. Recognizing potential sensory issue examples provides clues guiding supportive responses.

Hypersensitivity Examples

  • Sounds: Reacting strongly to routine noises like blender operating by covering ears or shouting “too loud” frequently.
  • Visual Input: Squinting or eyes watering routinely indoors without vision deficit; insisting on dim lighting.
  • Tactile Input: Disliking hair brushing and nail trimming; limited tolerance for specific attire — refusing long pants despite the weather requirements, objecting to most shoes and socks.
  • Tastes: Having a minimal palate and often gagging while trying unfamiliar foods.
  • Smells: Expressing annoyance regularly to typically unnoticed ambient odors like room deodorizer plug-ins or vehicle exhaust.

Hyposensitivity Examples

  • Proprioceptive Input: Wanting to jump on furniture; seeking swing higher despite dizziness.
  • Interoceptive Awareness: Incapable of recognizing hunger/thirst signs — depending on scheduled mealtimes; frequently toilet accidents.
  • Tactile Input: Frequently moving too close to another’s face while conversing; constantly touching people.
  • Pain Sensitivity: High injury pain tolerance – slowly responding with minor complaints falling hard.

Identifying exact sensory issue examples in your child guides customized approaches promoting self-regulation, firm confidence in conquering triggers, and social resilience.

What Are The Signs Of Sensory Issues In Kids?   

Signs of sensory issues can vary depending on the individual’s age. In infants, hypersensitivity can be identified through behaviors such as a dislike of cuddling, excessive crying in response to everyday sounds, difficulty nursing, frequent arching of the back or neck, and reluctance to try new foods.

Symptoms for toddlers and preschoolers may include frequent crying or physical outbursts triggered by loud noises. They can also experience meltdowns from unexpected changes or brightly lit environments and aversions to certain clothing textures. 

School-aged children may experience meltdowns or anxiety when faced with fire drills, school assemblies, or sports events where crowds, whistles, or loud cheering occur unexpectedly. Additionally, some children may become overly sensitive to hot, stuffy classrooms when transitioning from cool outside air. 

Conversely, children hyposensitive to stimuli may habitually fidget and seek deep pressure while conversing, stand extremely close to others, and demonstrate a lack of awareness of extreme temperatures or pain tolerances beyond their peers.

When SPD isn’t well understood, it’s not uncommon for parents to use excessive discipline or unnecessary medication to try to resolve the behavior. However, these responses often deem the child’s reactions abnormal, which can make them ashamed or isolated. 

Prevalence And Impact Of Sensory Processing Challenges  

Sensory issues in childhood prevail more prevalently than parent and physician awareness acknowledges. Conservative research indicates that one in six children have issues with sensory processing, including up to 90% of children with autism. 

Suppose we also factor in the 6 million kids affected by ADHD, which is also strongly linked to SPD. In that case, the number of kids struggling with sensory issues daily is even more staggering.  

Taking a positive, forward-looking perspective on these rates and realities, however, helps us realize that once we learn how to help calm and improve sensory processing functions in kids, we can see significant benefits to children struggling with ASD and ADHD as well. 

Sensory dysfunction can significantly impact physical, emotional, social, and academic progress and success in navigating environments outside the home. Children who are hypersensitive to new situations may feel fear and reluctance to reach normal childhood milestones. They may be denied kindergarten enrollment or sleepover invitations, or their participation may be brief in such situations. 

Often, moms must rescue their children who become overwhelmed and start crying due to extrasensory stimulation. Over time, this leads to families avoiding going into stores, restaurants, play centers, and so many other fun and regular life activities due to the fear of sensory meltdowns.

Sensory Processing Dysfunction Triggers And Root Causes   

Scientifically pinpointing definitive causes for Sensory Processing Disorders currently proves limited. While conventional medicine would most likely dismiss sensory issues as solely genetic, just like ASD, ADHD, and anxiety, there is so much more going on.

It’s well documented that prenatal distress and birth trauma contribute to Sensory Processing Disorder, as well as Autism Spectrum Disorder. Pediatric specialists recently correlated high-risk pregnancy maternal infections or inflammation with overstimulated immune activity across the placenta, spurring unbalanced neurological responses in offspring. 

This results when repetitive stress hormones catecholamines shift the autonomic nervous system into overdrive, heightening sustained sympathetic fight-or-flight reactions: “The Perfect Storm” of factors culminating in sensory processing dysfunction plus behavioral disorders like ADHD.   

Fortunately, restoring nervous system balance through Neurologically-Focused Chiropractic Care helps restore proper sensory communication and connection between the brain, body, and environment. 

The Role Of Subluxation And Stress In Sensory Processing Disorder   

Just as with autism and other psychiatric conditions, traditional medical theories suggest that a combination of genetics and environmental factors disrupts sensory function. While these theories hold some merit, they fail to investigate or consider exactly which environmental or neurological factors are at play. 

Two of these often overlooked neurological challenges, subluxation, and resulting dysautonomia, play a pivotal role in creating sensory dysfunction. 

Subluxation can occur when delicate neural structures are injured and neurosensory communication is disrupted. As studies show, this typically happens during a birth trauma, such as with C-sections or forceps deliveries. 

Essentially, traumatic births can cause asymmetrical neck strains and interference between nerves that relay critical sensory information. A nerve that can be particularly impacted is the vagus nerve, which is housed in the brainstem and upper neck region and is the most important sensory processing nerve in the entire body.

When subluxation and neurological dysfunction occur, the autonomic nervous system shifts into a sustained “fight or flight” sympathetic overload. This, in turn, further escalates physical responses to ordinary sensory input. Disrupting the nervous system’s regulation slows cognitive processing for learning, focus, and emotional coping and can delay language and social skills.

This is where Neurologically-Focused Chiropractic Care can help. Through noninvasive adjustments, healthy nervous system regulation can be restored, and sensory processing can improve. This is particularly true for movement and proprioception.

Clinical studies suggest that children undergoing chiropractic care for subluxation and dysautonomia show improvement in regulating emotional and sensory responses can better regulate their nervous system, and can adapt to their daily environment. This leads to a decrease in meltdowns and other sensory processing difficulties.

Restoring Sensory Communication With Neurologically-Focused Care   

Using advanced neurological INSiGHT scans to measure nervous system stress, combined with the latest research and cumulative clinical expertise, qualified PX Docs can pinpoint the root cause of sensory issues with precision. 

Once the scans have identified the root of the sensory issues, noninvasive adjustments can activate calming parasympathetic nervous system responses. This helps to release stuck sympathetic stress and bring the nervous system back into optimal sensory function. 

This improvement in overall neurological function helps improve emotional resilience, social-emotional regulation, focus, sleep, and motor coordination.

If you’ve exhausted conventional medical approaches, consider scheduling an appointment with a neurologically-focused pediatric chiropractor today. To find one near you, visit our PX Docs Directory. There is another side to sensory challenges—we’ll help you get to it!

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