What is Sensory Processing?

Sensory processing is the normal neurological process of organizing sensations for our use in everyday life. We use sensations to survive, satisfy our desires, learn, play, socialize and develop relationships, cope with life stressors, regulate emotions and function effectively. Our brains receive sensory information from our bodies and surroundings, interpret these messages, and organize purposeful responses.

There are 8 sensory systems. Read more about Sensory Systems and Integration

What are the red flags when a child is having sensory processing problem?

Infants and toddlers

  • Problems with eating or sleeping
  • Refusal to go to anyone except caregivers for comfort
  • Irritability when being dressed; discomfort in clothes
  • Rarely playing with toys
  • Resisting cuddling and/or being held; arching away when held
  • Difficulty calm oneself
  • Floppy or stiff body
  • Motor delays


  • Over-sensitivity to touch, noises, smells, other people
  • Difficulty making friends
  • Difficulty with dailty activities such as dressing, eating, sleeping, and/or toilet training
  • Clumsiness and poor motor skills
  • High level of physical movement and activity; being described as being others' space
  • Frequent or long temper tantrums

Elementary/Primary Schoolers

  • Easily distracted
  • Fidgety and seeking movement
  • Possible aggressive behaviors
  • Easily overwhelmed
  • Difficulty with handwriting or motor activities
  • Difficulty making friends
  • High pain tolerance or unaware of pain
  • Limited awareness of other people

Adolescents and adults

  • Low self-esteem
  • Fear of failing at new tasks
  • Lethargic and slow
  • Always on the go and/or impulsive
  • Easilty distractible
  • Challenges with completing tasks
  • Clumsiness
  • Poor motor skills or handwriting
  • Difficulty staying on task and motivated