What Are Sensory Processing Issues in Children & How to Treat Them

Sensory issues occur when a child has a difficult time receiving and responding to information from their senses. Children who have sensory issues may have an aversion to anything that triggers their senses, such as light, sound, touch, taste, or smell.

Common symptoms of sensory processing issues may include:

  • hyperactivity
  • frequently putting things in their mouth
  • resisting hugs

Unfortunately, not a great deal is known about sensory issues or why some children experience them but not others.

Keep reading to learn more about what children do if they have sensory overload and what can be done to help them process sensory information.

What is sensory processing?

You may have learned about the five senses in elementary school, but the truth is you experience the world with more than five senses.

Sensory processing is divided into eight main types:

  • Proprioception. This is the “internal” sense of awareness you have for your body. It’s what helps you maintain posture and motor control, for example. It’s also what tells you about how you’re moving and occupying space.
  • Vestibular. This term refers to the inner ear spatial recognition. It’s what keeps you balanced and coordinated.
  • Interoception. This is the sense of what’s happening in your body. It may be best understood as how you “feel.” This includes whether you feel hot or cold and whether you feel your emotions.
  • Five senses. Lastly, there are the 5 common senses — touch, hearing, taste, smell, and sight.

Sensory issues have previously been called a sensory processing disorder. The disorder, however, isn’t officially recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5).

Instead of its own disorder, many doctors and experts believe sensory issues are a component of another condition or disorder. That’s one reason why little is known about the issue and how best to treat it.

But what is known can help parents, healthcare providers, and other caregivers understand their child’s experiences and provide support.