Childhood SPD Symptoms (ages 4-12)

What exactly does SPD look like in shool aged children? This is a general overview of the symptoms. The list may seem very long, but it is a condensed version that covers the full range of symptoms children from ages four to about twelve with Sensory Processing Disorder can have. All checklists on this site are made to print well, so feel free to print this out and mark how often and/or severely your child exhibits each of the following symptoms on a scale of 0 (never) to 4 (always/severe). Feel free to mark anything that has been overcome with a "P" to indicate it as a previous issue.

Sensory Modulation

General Modulation

_______ has atypical eating habits (very picky, eats at odd times, etc.)

_______ has unusual sleeping habits or sleep schedule

_______ has a hard time falling asleep in unfamiliar environments

_______ distressed by switching from one activity to another

_______ becomes engrossed in one single activity for a long time and seems to tune out everything else

_______ very high or very low energy level

_______ very resistent to change in daily life and surrounding environment

_______ parents find they must always control the child's environment and “warn” people what to do/not to do so their child is comfortable


_______ hates the feel of certain fabrics or textures, especially with clothing

_______ bothered by clothes (tags, seams, ties, belts, turtlenecks)

_______ has a limited wardrobe; may have to wear shorts, skirts, or pants exclusively

_______ may wear the same clothes for extended periods of time

_______ may hate clothes enough to prefer going without whenever possible

_______ bothered by "light touch"; someone lightly touching/caressing hand, face, leg or back

_______ extremely ticklish

_______ doesn't like to be hugged, may arch back or pull away

_______ if not yet potty trained, distressed by diaper changes

_______ washes hands excessively (after touching certain objects or textures)

_______ hates brushing teeth, as the toothpaste may be too strong or 'spicy'

_______ dislikes the feeling of water, especially during baths, showers, or when getting splashed

_______ avoids touching certain textures, especially anything messy

_______ upset by having dirty hands or face

_______ may gag when eating foods with certain textures or flavors (has a very limited diet)

_______ difficult to get to try new foods or textures

_______ must touch object with one hand if the other hand already touched it; balances touch sensations

_______ distressed by certain everyday odors

_______ becomes upset or acts out when people come to the house or when in crowded places

_______ sensitive to noises that most children are not bothered by (microwaves, flushing toilets, fans, voices, vaccuum cleaners, etc.)

_______ avoids certain types of toys (vibrating, rough textured toys, slippery/slimy toys, brightly colored objects, flashing objects etc.)

_______ can't sleep if room isn't completely dark and/or quiet; wakes up at the slightest noise or light

_______ distressed by bright lights or the sun

_______ is often afraid of falling; has a fear of heights

_______ doesn't enjoy movement activities, sports, or playing on playground equipment

_______ gets motion sickness (from cars, planes, boats, amusement park rides, etc.)

_______ avoids crossing the midlines (moving arms/legs across the mid-section of body)

_______ gets dizzy very easily

_______ ears turn reddish when in a state of overload

_______ clenches fists and toes a lot

_______ difficulty with noise, activities, and light in classrooms

_______ gets overwhelmed, cries, or gets angry when over stimulated


_______ appears lethargic or lazy and unmotivated; low energy level

_______ overly calm and passive demeanor

_______ doesn't appear to respond to own name or a familiar voice

_______ doesn't respond to noises peers would notice

_______ if not potty trained, doesn't notice having a wet or dirty diaper

_______ doesn't notice need to go, is/was a late or difficult potty trainer

_______ doesn't seem to notice pain; doesn't notice or get upset by burns/shots/cuts/bruises

_______ doesn't seem to notice dangers in the environment (may walk out right in front of a car)

_______ won't catch self with hands when falling to protect self from getting hurt; lacks reflexes

_______ doesn't interact with peers or adults; is hard to engage, an observer and not a 'do'er

_______ doesn't seem to notice if hands or face are dirty

_______ is the last to notice when a person enters the room

_______ difficult to get up in the morning or from a nap; sleeps a lot

Sensory Seeking

_______ very high energy level, hyperaactive; often believed to have ADHD, whether it is true or not

_______ loves to touch and be touched, has to touch everything

_______ frequently tips chair on back two legs

_______ restless when sitting through a class or a movie

_______ has to fidget and "fiddle" with things all the time; pens, pencils, rubber band, anything within reach

_______ is self-destructive (bangs head, pinches, hits, bites, or hurts self)

_______ thought to be a trouble maker, hitting, shoving, pushing, or knocking into other kids or adults

_______ frequently shakes leg

_______ always seems to engage in repetitive, non-purposeful play with a limited number of objects

_______ often touches and twists own hair or other's hair

_______ extremely attached to 'babyish' comfort objects (pacifiers, thumb, blankie, bottle, diapers); hard to calm down without them

_______ needs excessive movement (swinging, rocking, bouncing, or rocking self constantly)

_______ aside from the typical teething stage, always chewing on things (clothes, hands, fingers, etc.)

_______ prefers foods with very strong tastes and flavors

_______ cracks knuckles often

_______ loves crunchy foods (popcorn, carrots, chips, nuts, pretzels, etc.)

_______ stretches out clothing and fabric, trying to increase pressure on parts of the body

_______ needs to be under heavy blankets or wear tighter pajamas to fall asleep; likely to roll self up in blankets

_______ needs consistant sound or white noise to stay asleep (fan, nature tape, music, etc.)

_______ needs a lot of sensory input to fall asleep (rocking, singing, bouncing, rubbing skin, etc.)

_______ identifies objects by smell, has to smell everything, uses smell to determine whether or not to like something or someone

_______ seeks out crashing and "squishing" activities; may jump onto or run into furniture

_______ is a thrill seeker; loves fast, dangerous sports (skateboarding, snowboarding, dirt biking, football, hockey, etc)

_______ seeks out fast, spinning, and/or upside down carnival rides

Sensory Discrimination

_______ unable to identify objects by touch alone

_______ has a hard time finding things in a desk, especially when not looking

_______ difficulty locating items in a cupboard, drawer, in the closet, or on a grocery shelf

_______ if taking own baths, difficulty heating water to the correct temperature; may burn self or use water that is very cold

_______ frequently breaks things (applies too much pressure)

_______ frequently drops things (doesn't apply enough pressure)

_______ is too forceful around animals (not gentle enough)

_______ gets disoriented and/or lost easily in stores, buildings, etc.

_______ difficulty concentrating on or watching a movie/tv show when there is background noise or distractions

_______ difficulty remembering or understanding what people are saying

_______ difficulty following directions if given two or three at one time

_______ can not complete concentrated tasks if noises present

_______ talks too loud or too soft

_______ difficulty licking an ice cream cone neatly

_______ difficulty with speech and annunciation

_______ bumps into things frequently

_______ difficulty judging how much pressure to apply when doing tasks or picking something up

_______ often reverses numbers and letters or process them backwards

_______ difficulty telling time on an analogue clock

_______ has significant issues with making 'typical' childhood noises

_______ difficulty organizing and grouping things by categories, similarities, and/or differences (color, shape, size, etc)

_______ difficulty distinguishing different tastes and/or flavors of food and/or drink items

_______ difficulty lining up numbers correctly for math problems

_______ gets confused between similar looking letters (such as b, p, d, q, and g)

_______ often hears things wrong, especially if they are similar sounding words (such as "car" and "card" or "cart")

_______ has difficulty keeping up in classroom environments

Sensory-Based Motor Abilities

_______ has difficulty learning to ride a bike or other moving equipment

_______ late to reach a wide variety and large number of physical developmental milestones

_______ difficulty walking and balancing on uneven surfaces

_______ clumsy, uncoordinated, bumps into things, accident prone

_______ difficulty with fine motor tasks, such as buttoning, zipping, tying, playing games with small parts, closing zip loc bags, etc.

_______ confuses right and left sides

_______ prefers sedentary tasks, avoiding sports or physical activities

_______ difficulty with handwriting; hard to read, writes slowly, gets wrist cramps

_______ uses just one hand while using objects; has diffiulty using both sides together

_______ can't use or keep a good grip on objects at an age appropriate level

_______ easily fatigued with physical tasks

_______ is a messy eater, difficult time using eating utensils, spilling and dropping food frequently

_______ often knocks drinks or other things over when reaching for them

_______ has difficulty pouring drinks

_______ frequently drops items

_______ often hums or talks to self while concentrating on a task

_______ significant difficulty learning to tie things (shoes, bags, etc.)

_______ difficulty with motor tasks requiring several steps

_______ difficulty using language, cues, gestures, etc. becoming easily frustrated

_______ difficulty learning new motor tasks (new games, new movements, etc.)

_______ floppy body, noodle-like; weak grip

Social and Emotional

_______ dislikes changes in routines, needing consistancy

_______ can be described as defiant, stubborn or uncooperative

_______ is very emotional and sensitive, cries or gets angry a lot

_______ distressed when transitioning from one activity to another

_______ does not engage in age appropriate play with caregivers or other familiar people

_______ severe separation anxiety (incredibly upset when left alone for even short periods)

_______ has many tantrums every day

_______ has excessive reflux, allergies, ear infections or digestive issues

_______ needs comfort objects (blanket, stuffed animal, rubbing something, pacifier, thumb, etc.) to remain calm

_______ can't focus attention on play, caregiver, or toys long enough to interact at an appropriate age level

_______ engages in constant non-purposeful activities (spinning, rocking, staring at certain objects, etc)

_______ is not interested in play or will not use objects for purposeful play

_______ wanders around aimlessly a lot; often lost in 'own little world'

_______ can't seem to finish projects or tasks

_______ has difficulty making decisions; is often unsure or lacks an opinion

_______ is seen as rigid, bossy, and controlling

_______ prefers solitary activities over group participation

_______ is often impatient and/or impulsive

_______ doesn't always register or understand social cues and non-verbal language

_______ difficulty with authority figures

_______ trouble relating to and socializing with peers

_______ has difficulty accepting defeat or forgiving self

_______ frequently gets angery or has moments of rage

_______ often appears sad or uncomfortable; may not smile much

_______ strongly prefers people with certain energy levels or voices (intonation, volume, pitch, etc.)

_______ difficulty establishing eye contact, focusing on objects or tracking them with eyes

_______ gets frequent panic or anxiety attacks

_______ has many fears and/or phobias

_______ can't let foods touch each other on a plate, has to wear clothes a certain way; has OCD-like symptoms

_______ is easily distractible and often unorganized

_______ easily startled

_______ difficulty seeking out and maintaining relationships

_______ seems to only get over being upset quickly if a comfort object or toy is accessible

Internal Regulation

_______ difficulty getting to sleep at night or at a nap time

_______ very unpredictable sleep/wake cycle

_______ respiration too fast or slow for the appropriate state of arousal

_______ sleeps a lot; is not often alert, responding, playing, or interacting

_______ has a very hard time waking up

_______ over or under sensitivite to bowel and bladder sensations

_______ over or under sensitivite to the sensations of hunger and thurst

_______ chronic, irregular, and inconsistent bowel and bladder activity

_______ seems to always be hungry or doesn't ever want to eat

The above checklist was editted by Dan Travis and reposted from with the original author's permission.

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