Sensory Processing Disorder Checklist

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) affects people differently. Some people can be seekers and some can be avoiders of input.  Because of this, you may notice opposite statements within the same category in the checklist below. For example, a seeker of tactile input and an avoider of tactile input will present differently though both are affected by sensory processing disorder and would benefit from performing a sensory diet in order to improve their processing. 

This checklist is designed to give a quick and easy way to see if you or your child may be experiencing sensory processing difficulties. If you suspect your child may have SPD, finding an Occupational Therapist who specializes in the treatment of SPD is most helpful.  But there are many things you can do at home, such as using sensory diet cards, to help as well. 

Tactile input

Tactile input refers to what you feel (touch). When seeking more tactile input you may notice a child who wants to touch everything. When avoiding tactile input you may notice a child who draws away from certain textures. Examples of difficulties with tactile input: 

  • Avoids or dislikes getting hands messy 
  • Only wears certain clothing due to fabric texture
  • Socks and shoes have to be “just so”
  • Doesn’t notice when food is on their face 
  • Wants to touch and feel everything
  • Startles when touched
  • Difficulties with haircuts or baths

Vestibular input

Vestibular input refers to where you are in space and movement. When seeking vestibular movement you may always be on the move, when avoiding the person may appear more sedentary or hesitant with certain activities. Examples of difficulties with vestibular input:

  • Spins in circles, doesn’t appear to become dizzy
  • Jumps from high places
  • Appears to be an adrenaline junkie, doesn’t seem to notice heights
  • Loves to be upside down, swing, spin or jump
  • Does not like to have feet lifted from ground
  • Avoids activities with lots of movement (slides, scooters, bicycles, swings)
  • Easily car sick
  • Needs to be in control of when and how their body moves

Proprioceptive input

Proprioception is body awareness. Children with impaired proprioception will have difficulties knowing where their bodies are in space and appear clumsy or awkward with their movements. Examples of difficulties with proprioception: 

  • Likes tight hugs
  • Prefers to sleep with lots of blankets
  • Squishes self into small spaces such as the corner of the couch
  • Likes ‘forts’
  • Does not like to cuddle or be hugged
  • Wants to be the one who initiates touch
  • Avoids blankets
  • Prefers open areas
  • Loses balance and falls down often
  • Appears clumsy and bumps into objects
  • Has unusual amounts of “accidents” and injuries

Auditory input

Auditory input is what you hear. Examples of difficulties with auditory input: 

  • Covers ears with loud noises, such as a toilet flushing
  • Feels people are yelling when talking at normal volume
  • Avoids crowded, busy areas or events
  • Difficulties focusing
  • Appears not to hear when spoken to
  • Poor modulation of voice (speaks too loud, too soft)
  • Makes unusual or frequent sounds, noises

Oral input

Gustation and oral input refers to what you taste, as well as the textures of food (how food feels to the mouth) and how it looks. Examples of difficulties with oral input:

  • Limited diet
  • Avoids or only eats certain textures, such as crunchy or soft
  • Likes very spicy or sour food
  • Does not like when food is combined
  • Gets upset when food touches
  • Reluctant to try new foods
  • Will not eat preferred food if presented differently, for example if it looks different than normal

Visual input

Visual input is what you see. Examples of difficulties with visual input: 

  • Bothered by bright lights
  • Prefers the lights to be off
  • Likes to stare at moving or flashing objects or toys
  • Gets upset when screens are taken away
  • Difficulty finding items in crowded areas
  • Struggles to copy from the board at school
  • Easily distracted

Olfactory input

Olfactory input is what you smell. Some people are more sensitive to smells than others and will notice or be bothered by smells someone else doesn’t even perceive. Examples of difficulties with olfactory input: 

  • Upset by smells in the cafeteria or stores (such as cosmetic counter)
  • Avoids certain foods due to their smell
  • Doesn’t seem to notice certain smells
  • Seems to smell unusual objects
  • Enjoys very strong smells

As you can see there are many different ways that sensory processing difficulties can present and hopefully this sensory processing disorder checklist will help you further understand your child. It may take time to find what works best for you and your child, but engaging in a sensory diet to help with overall sensory regulation is a great place to start. 

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