Why does my child tip-toe? Understanding sensory needs in young children.

We are beginning to understand more and more about the difficulties children have that may affect their learning in the classroom. Over my 20 years in the classroom, I have taught hundreds of children and all have differing needs. Sometimes, there have been children that have struggled more with their memory or there are others that may need extra help with maths. More recently I have been interested in the needs of children who seem to seek out or withdraw from sensory input. A child’s brain continually takes on sensory input throughout the day which is filtered appropriately and used to make sense of the world. Sometimes, a child may be hypersensitive (oversensitive) or hyposensitive (undersensitive) to this sensory input. This may indicate that they have a barrier to learning such as ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) and you may find this post useful. Or it just may be that they need a little extra help for a while as it may affect their learning in the classroom.

A sensory red flag 

I have noticed that there are some common behaviours to look out for in your child that may indicate a sensory red flag. Understanding these may help parents with their child’s odd behaviour as often these children may also have more tantrums as they try to make sense of the sensory input that is flooding their brains. Being able to help our children by being knowledgable about these sensory needs is so important whilst they are still young. I am not an Occupational Therapist however I am a teacher and I have met children with these needs throughout my career. These opinions are my own. If you are worried about your child in any way, talk to your child’s teacher, your health visitor or your own GP.

Child having a tantrum
Children may have more tantrums that usual.

The most common behaviours I have noticed in young school-aged children that may indicate a sensory issue are:
1. Your child prefers to walk on tip toes.
2. Your school age child chews EVERYTHING but mostly sleeves, towels and their teddies.
3. Your child doesn’t respond to verbal instructions but their hearing is fine or they may hum or make noises all the time.
4. Your child has as a limited diet or gags with certain food.
5. Your child doesn’t like wearing trousers or tight fitting clothing or will only wear tight fitted clothing.
6. Your child seems more aggressive with others than other children of the same age.
7. Your child really hates loud noises (gets upset) or shouts over people all the time (using a very loud voice).
8. Your child hides at parties but is really excited about going and is not generally a shy person.
9. Your child is always squeezing themselves into tiny spaces or boxes.
10. Your child is totally wild all the time and seeks out jumping, spinning, climbing activities.

How may needs needs affect my child?

Children that display these behaviours may have trouble with some of the skills they need in school. These are:

  • Have trouble focussing and resisting change. 
  • Lack social skills and find it tricky making or keeping friendships.
  • Poor motor skills that may affect their handwriting or balance.
  • Have poor self-control of their impulses so gets frustrated easily.

There are things that you can do to help your child if they demonstrate any of these behaviours of if they have a sensory processing issue. I found this post really useful. 
Do drop me an email if you would like any advice. I will always try to help.

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  • The only one on this list that my youngest has is the eating thing. It can be really frustrating at times because there is so little that he will eat and I hate hearing from other people that its because I spoil him. It has nothing to do with it. He’s been that way since he was a baby. He is 11 now and while his food palette has increased, it is still an issue for him. I just found out recently that my mother is the same way. It makes me wonder if this is hereditary or not. #LGRTStumble

    • Possibly. Many, many children find the textures of food tricky to handle. Is it that do you think? Hopefully, with time, this will improve. X

  • I remember when I visited the school where my children would attend the following year and we were given skipping ropes and told to help teach them to skip either with a rope or just skip across park or field. They were saying that children who could skip found it easier to learn how to read. I am not sure about the science behind it but my children were good at skipping and reading so maybe it is true. My children all struggled with social interaction and parties that were too noisy, it is something though they have now grown out of, I must admit I can feel overwhelmed in busy shops where the crowds are big and music is blaring, it causes me to want to run and hide, although I don’t, but I wish i could at times. Thanks for sharing #mg

    • Yes, I’m quite sensitive to bright lights and can get lots of headaches from them.
      Many children do grow out of some of these things. X

  • I can’t relate these issues with my children but I can to myself as a child. My mum was very young when she had me and my brother and I know it was very hard for her. She’s never been naturally maternal and was extremely strict with us. I found it impossible to make friends and relied on my brother for companionship. It culminated in anorexia when we moved away from my nan. My mum did the best she could, I know. An interesting read for me xx

  • I can relate these to my friend’s 4 year daughter and they are both struggling. No one seem to be able to help the girl. Now I can see that she does display some of the behaviours above. An interesting read. I will mention the sensory issue to my friend.

    • Do Nyla. If she needs any more information or advice, I will always try to help.x

  • Great post, Sophie. It’s important for parents to know what kinds of behaviour to be aware of. The posts you linked to were informative as well and added to the richness of your post.

    • Thanks lovely Norah! Did the post look ‘normal’? Im in the process of going self hosted but have lost many, many links and photos in the move!

  • My son has SPD, he is a huge sensory seeker. He has a few of those listed. He generally stomps around like an elephant and is very rough with everything. He craves deep pressure and loves being lay on, squeezed, trapped under covers. It’s fascinating (and quite bizzare when you first hear about It!)

    • Yes the weighted blankets that you can get may help. X

  • My twins don’t like bright lights then again neither do I really interesting read Thank you for linking to #Thatfridaylinky please come back next week

    • I hate bright lights too; am always switching them off.

  • This is really interesting to read, it is also handy as a worry wart like me would like to know certain signs to look up if I was concerned one of my boys had suspected sensory issues!
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back tomorrow.

  • This is a really helpful post. It can be so difficult to know what is “normal” behviour for your child and what needs investigating further, but it’s so helpful to have a teacher’s perspective on it who has experience with lots of different children #blogcrush

    • You are welcome. A few years ago I set up a company called Childguru with a bought of offering advice for parents but I found I could never charge anyone for advice! Passing on our knowledge is something that I feel quite strongly about. We are all in this together after all. Xx

  • Thank you so much for this information. It really is helpful, both for those times when we question what is going on for our own kids, and when we wonder about relatives or friends kids. Understanding and empathy go a long way. #mg xoxo

  • This is great. We have supported my son through most of your list. He copes much better now at school as we have learned ways to support him. Plus now that he is nine, he is mature enough and communicates his feelings to us so that we can sort out any new concerns he has. It does get easier. ❤️

    • Ah that’s great! Thanks for commenting. X

  • I shared this with my sister as my niece would show qualities number 7 and 8. This is really helpful and opened up new knowledge. Thank you so much.

    • Oh I’m glad you liked it. Thank you for stopping by. X

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