What is Sensory Integration Disorder?

Children with Sensory Integration Disorder have problems interpreting things they hear, see, smell, or touch. Sensory Integration Disorder occurs in the brains of children. The nervous system works by interpretting signals sent from the body through the nerves to the brain. These signals tell the brain to see, hear, smell, or feel. Children with Sensory Integration Disorder do not process these signals correctly. For example, they might process sounds very intensely and therefore startle easily. They may have problems with over sensitivity or under sensitivity to things they taste, feel, smell, see, or hear. Sensory issues are common in children with autism or ADHD.

Symptoms of Sensory Integration Disorder

Hypersensitivity Hyposensitivity


Extremely picky eater (may limit food choices to only two or three foods)

May gag on textured foods or may still be eating pureed baby food after he is two years old

Has difficulty chewing or swallowing

May be extremely picky about what temperature his food or drinks are

Refuses to brush teeth or allow parent to brush his teeth

Prefers bland foods

May try to eat inedible objects

Prefers foods with very strong tastes

Excessive drooling

Chews or sucks on things constantly (such as thumb sucking, chewing on pen caps or shirt collars)

Doesn’t distinguish tastes, may act like all foods taste the same


Reacts to smells that other people may not even notice

May not like the smell of perfume or cleaning supplies

May not like certain people because of the way they smell

May not notice unpleasant odors

Has difficulty distinguishing smells. May not be able to tell what something is based on how it smells.


May get distracted by background noises (such as lawnmower outside, washer and dryers running, etc)

Doesn’t like to hear loud talking, music, or people singing

Startles or covers ears with loud noises or cries when he hears unexpected sounds

May get anxious with certain sounds such as hair dryer, vacuum, engine starting

May not respond when name is called

Enjoys making lots of noise, such as banging things together

Likes to listen to loud music or television

Tunes out sounds (for example, may be oblivious to dog barking or crying baby)

Can not distinguish where sounds are coming from. (For example, may not be able to find the telephone when ringing)


Sensitivity to lights

Easily distracted by toys and moving objects

Rubs his eyes frequently

Avoids eye contact

May be vision impaired or have poor vision

Has difficulty with learning letters and numbers or may get letters confused

Has difficulty distinguishing differences in size and proportion

May have problems doing puzzles, cutting, or sorting

Bumps into objects or misses steps when walking down stairs or on curbs

Touch and Movement

Startles or cries when touched or tapped unexpectedly

Does not like to be cuddled and held closely

Does not like to have diaper changed or clothes changed

Complains about brushing hair

Picky about what clothes he wears (may complain about tags or textures)

May not like water or messy play

May wipe hands or wash hands excessively (doesn’t like dirty or sticky hands)

May refuse to walk on certain surfaces without shoes

Excessively anxious about having fingernails cut or hair cuts

Does not like swinging movement (avoids swings, slides, and other moving playground equipment)

Fearful of elevators and heights

Does not like going up or down stairs

Clumsy and loses balance easily

May not notice being bumped into

Does not respond to falling down or getting hurt, rarely cries when injured

May not notice food left on face

Likes messy play

Likes to spin or rock (may spin around in circles and not get dizzy)

Likes to jump on furniture or beds