If your child is sensitive to sound, touch, taste, smell, visuals or movements, they may have a sensory need. It’s not always obvious whether a child has a sensory need. Some of the first signs can also be age-appropriate behaviour that will pass later.
Every child who has a sensory sensitivity is different, and their needs may change over time. Sensitivities are sometimes linked to autism or sensory processing disorder. But some children may have sensory needs without any connection to either.
Children might be ‘sensory seekers’, trying to meet a need through a sensation. They can also be ‘sensory avoiders’, meaning they find some sensations difficult. Some children will show signs of both.
Signs of a sensory need may include ongoing resistance to or fixations with things like:
Feeling sensitive or overloaded can sometimes prompt some children to have a meltdown. Or they might retreat to a place they feel safe, with low stimulation.
Recognising your child’s needs is the first step. If they are resisting what you see as routine tasks, try starting a behaviour diary. This can help you pinpoint what the triggers might be. Once you have a clearer idea of what helps or upsets them, there are different ways you can support.