Sensory processing disorder, a once little known neurological disorder, is fast becoming a household name, and many kindergarten parents are wondering if their child may be affected.

The good news is that, unless you or your child’s teacher notice behavior that seems to be quite irregular compared to other kindergarteners, you usually do not have anything to worry about when it comes to sensory processing disorder, or any disorder, for that matter.

Children with sensory processing disorder experience and coordinate the sensory information they receive from the environment in a different manner than other children; therefore they often behave differently than other kids do. For example, they may be extremely sensitive to touch, to the point where they resist wearing clothes or sleeping with a blanket. Alternatively, they may be unaware of bodily sensations, such as hunger, cold, or the need to use the bathroom. Children with sensory processing disorder may seem extremely impulsive, and exhibit behaviors such as being unable to sit still in any setting, excessive spinning or rolling around, or constantly climbing to high places in order to jump off.

Here are some signs that may indicate a disorder of sensory processing. This list is by no means comprehensive, and some symptoms may be indicative of other problems, so check with your doctor if you have concerns. On the other hand, most children exhibit some of these behaviors at one time or another, so do not worry if your child has shown one or two of the behaviors as isolated incidents.

Common characteristics of children affected by sensory processing disorder:

  • Is constantly bothered by furry or fuzzy textures.
  • Is extremely sensitive to lights or sunshine, fragrances, food texture, or background noise. Is distracted by sounds that most others do not notice, such as a clock ticking.
  • Has trouble being close to other people, such as difficulty standing in line next to other kids or sitting near them on the rug. Does not like to go anywhere with large crowds of people.
  • Is extremely upset by messy play, especially if it involves items like glue or mud getting on the hands.
  • Is extremely distressed by grooming activities, such as getting her hair or fingernails cut.
  • Does not seem to notice things like hearing his name called or being touched.
  • Does not cry or get upset when injured.
  • Seems to injure himself often, such as pinching or biting himself.
  • Craves foods that have extreme tastes, such as highly spicy or sweet.
  • Shows a preference for crashing into others, jumping, and roughhousing that far exceeds that of other children his age
  • Is constantly chewing on or sucking on items that are not food, such as clothing, hair, or small objects.
  • Seems to have a need to always be touching and rubbing objects and other people
  • Is fearful of playground equipment, especially those that involve heights. Seems to have an excessive fear of even small heights, such as steps.
  • Loses balance easily and often clings to others.

As you can see, sensory processing disorder encompasses a wide variety of symptoms that all involve a difficulty with regulating incoming information from the senses, such as vision, hearing, touch, smell, balance, and taste. If you see extreme behaviors in your child on either end of the continuum (over-sensitive or under-sensitive), you should record what you have noticed and bring this information to your physician.