Behavioral Manifestations of Sensory Processing Disorder

*Note: A child may be hyper-reactive to some stimuli while being hypo-responsive to others, as well as vary his or her reaction to the same stimuli day to day, hour to hour. Children with sensory processing disorder differ and may exhibit only some of the behaviors on this list.


  • Avoidance of use of hands; especially palms coming into contact with the surface (i.e. carpet)
  • Decreased grasp strength
  • Momentary grasp of toys and then quick release
  • Approach-avoidance movements of hands
  • Lack of accommodation or hand shaping around toy
  • Strong avoidance response in hands
  • Lack of exploration of the environment with the hands and feet
  • Irritation to weight bearing on feet when shoes or socks are off
  • Toe-walking
  • Lack of hand to mouth play; increased irritability with finger feeding
  • Excessively ticklish; irritated when touched (may even become frightened or irritated when
  • approached)
  • Increased irritability during bathing, dressing or changing routines
  • Use of middle finger for pincer (when stability not an issue)
  • Strong dislike of shoes and socks or prefers to always wear shoes and cries when you remove shoes and socks
  • Orally defensive to certain textures, temperatures of food
Hypo-responsive/Poor registration/Shut down
  • Unaware of cuts or bruises or pain
  • Head banging, self-biting
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Puts everything in mouth

Taste & Smell

  • Sensitive to environmental smells, house odors, restaurant odors
  • Eats only one type of food, usually bland
  • Acts as though all foods taste the same
  • Loves spicy, hot food
  • Sour foods such as lemon or pickle
  • Likes noxious smells such as smoke, bus fumes, or gasoline


  • Excessive blinking
  • Gaze aversion
  • Fleeting gaze, hyper-vigilance
  • Cannot tolerate sunlight or bright lights
  • Lack of focus
  • Dull eyes, lack of eye sparkle
  • Lack of conscious awareness of objects in the environment


  • Cries at loud noise, i.e. vacuum, smoke detector, school bell, fire alarm
  • Distracted by sound
  • Constant noise making by child, incessant talking
  • Distracted by white noise, i.e. lights, refrigerator, fans
  • Lack of orienting to sound
  • Delayed response to sounds


  • Fearful of movement in space
  • Avoids changing head position in relation to gravity
  • Avoids leaving contact with ground
  • Becomes easily motion sickness
  • Spins for long periods without dizziness
  • Lacks fear or judgment about consequences of moving in space (gravitational disregard)
  • May seek movement experiences


  • Intense-easily frustrated
  • Hyper-reactive
  • Distractibility
  • Sleeping difficulties, no regular pattern
  • Strong need for routine
  • Fright, Flight, Fight behaviors
  • Motoric, increased extension (avoidance), decreased flexion (approach)
  • Arrhythmic breathing
  • High-pitched voice


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