What does a sensory integration issue really look like? Well, it depends on which sensory systems are involved. For each sense you have- sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing, body awareness (proprioception) and balance sense (vestibular)- the senses can be heightened or lowered causing the child to overreact or underreact. Sometimes, kids can have a bit of both covering a handful of senses involved. For instance, someone may not be able to tolerate bright lights or sunny days, but have a hard time processing what is heard. A child may be slow to develop speech but have a wound up vestibular or balance system making him constantly seek movement and input. Because there can be a variety of ways a sensory system can react, it can be kind of tough to know where to begin! The secret to figuring it out is keeping a sensory journal and jotting down what patterns you see. Once you see the patterns, you can begin to tackle how to satisfy the sensory system.
To get you started, here's a list of characteristics each sense shows when a child is struggling with it. Remember, the child can overreact or underreact in each area.
• Becomes upset-or doesn’t notice- when hands, face or clothing are messy (paint, food, sand)
• Becomes anxious- or craves- walking barefoot on grass, sand, carpet, etc. (Walks on toes to avoid touching surface.)
• Complains about clothing being uncomfortable- dresses inappropriately for the weather.