Toddlers, by nature, are bossy, demanding and easily frustrated. Some toddlers seem to be even more so with meltdowns louder, longer and more intense than ever before witnessed in the checkout line at Target. Behaviors with these children are extreme, with oversized reactions to small things that are inconsequential to others.
Parents of these children are subject to comments regarding their parenting, recommendation to improve discipline and “tut-tutting” from relatives and strangers alike. They are at their wits end and want to know “why does my child act that way?”
There are a number of reasons a child might act “more” – more busy, more aggressive, more fearful, more obnoxious, or more particular. One reason that should be considered is challenges with processing sensory information.
Children with sensory processing challenges have difficulty making sense of every day sights, smells, sounds and touch. They may over-react or under-react to these everyday things, or show that they are overwhelmed or need more input by their behavior. Teachers may comment that they have trouble following directions, can’t sit still at circle time or are in their peers’ personal space. Grandparents may lament that their granddaughter never wants to wear the pretty frilly dress they bought her. A fun outing to the zoo may result in an unexpected meltdown, or they can never be still to sit and eat at the dinner table. These difficulties making sense of sensory input can also affect play dates, sports activities and attending Sunday School.
Sensory Processing challenges can be distressing for families who find their everyday lives complicated and puzzling. For children it can contribute to challenges with fine and gross motor skills development, social skill development and emotional wellbeing.
Fortunately, there is hope! Sensory Processing challenges and associated behavioral concerns CAN be addressed! Children who have sensory processing challenges may benefit from an Occupational Therapy evaluation and treatment. The right kind of therapeutic intervention can assist the child in processing information more effectively, and developing more appropriate behavioral responses. The lives of the child and their family can be radically changed!
Some signs your infant or toddler may have difficulties with sensory processing include:
- Resists cuddling or arches away when being held
- Difficulty being calmed or calming oneself
- Only happy when swinging or being carried
- Extremely irritable during dressing and/or bath time
- Does not notice pain or complain when wet/dirty
- “Floppy” body, bumps into things, poor balance
- Easily startled
- Delayed gross motor or fine motor skills
- Difficulty toilet training
- Overly sensitive to touch (pulls away, rubs place on body where touched)
- Hair washing, brushing and/or cutting is very challenging
- Intense, demanding, difficulty with transitions, very particular about routine or schedule
- Very slow to perform tasks
- Always in motion
If you have concerns regarding your child’s behavior, development or sensory processing skills, contact Sprouts Child Development Initiative, or your pediatrician. A referral can be made for an Occupational Therapy evaluation if indicated. Additional information can be obtained at: