Teen SPD Symptoms (ages 13-17)

Many wonder just how SPD effects teenagers. 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 teenagers (age 13-17) with Sensory Processing Disorder can have. This list is written both for parents and for teens to read themselves. 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 son or daughter 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

_______ atypical eating habits (very picky, eats at odd times, always wants to know 'what is for dinner,' etc.)

_______ unusual sleeping habits or sleep schedule (for a teen)

_______ hard to fall asleep in unfamiliar environments; may not do sleep-overs

_______ experience difficulty switching from one activity to another

_______ gets engrossed in one single activity (like video games) 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

_______ must always be in control of environment and warn people what to do/not to do to be comfortable


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

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

_______ limited wardrobe; may wear shorts, skirts, or pants exclusively

_______ wear the same clothes for extended periods of time

_______ bothered by "light touch"; someone lightly touching/caressing skin

_______ excessively ticklish

_______ may shy away from hugs, or get irritated by them

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

_______ dislike showers, baths or getting splashed

_______ hygiene issues; don't like the feel or smell of deodorant, soup, toothpaste, etc.

_______ discomfort from haircuts or hair brushing

_______ avoid touching messy objects, or other textures found to be undesirable

_______ can't stand to be dirty

_______ avoid foods with certain textures or flavors (limited diet)

_______ hesitant or avoidant of trying new foods

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

_______ distressed by certain everyday odors

_______ irritated or overwhelmed when people come to the house or when in crowded places

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

_______ avoid using things that vibrate, or are brightly colored or flashing

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

_______ distressed by bright lights or the sun

_______ afraid of heights

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

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

_______ can get dizzy very easily

_______ ears turn reddish when in a state of overload

_______ clench fists and toes a lot

_______ difficulty with noise, activities, and light in classrooms

_______ overwhelmed, upset, or angery when over stimulated

_______ don't go to parties or hang out with friends often

_______ have a difficult time in stores, movie theaters, sporting events, concerts, etc.


_______ appear lethargic or lazy and unmotivated; low energy level

_______ overly calm and passive demeanor

_______ don't respond typically to sound of own name

_______ don't notice or care about noises peers would notice

_______ not bothered by pain; may not even notice getting burns, cuts, or bruises

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

_______ won't catch self with hands when falling to protect body from injury

_______ don't prefer to interact with peers or adults; content to be the observer and not the 'do'er

_______ don't notice being dirty or get bothered by it

_______ last to notice when a person enters the room

_______ difficult to get up in the morning; may sleep through the alarm

Sensory Seeking

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

_______ love to touch and be touched, have to touch everything

_______ frequently tip chair on back two legs

_______ restless when sitting through a class or a movie

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

_______ self-destructive (bang head, pinch, hit, cut, bite, or hurt self)

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

_______ frequently shake leg

_______ often engage in repetitive, meaningless, and self-stimulating activities

_______ often touch, twist, or pull on hair

_______ attached to comfort objects or activities some find childish (sucking on thumb, sleeping with a favorite plushie, etc)

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

_______ always chewing on things (clothes, pencils, hands, fingers, etc.)

_______ prefer foods with very strong tastes and flavors

_______ crack knuckles often

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

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

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

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

_______ have to smell everything; use smell to determine whether or not to like something or someone

_______ seek out crashing activities, or ways to provide deep pressure to the body

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

_______ too forceful around animals (not gentle enough)

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

Sensory Discrimination

_______ unable to identify objects by touch alone

_______ have a hard time finding things in a desk, pocket, purse, or bag, especially when not looking

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

_______ difficulty heating water to the correct temperature for baths or showers; may burn self or use water that is very cold

_______ frequently break things (apply too much pressure)

_______ frequently drop things (don't apply enough pressure)

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

_______ difficulty watching or concentrating on 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

_______ speak too loud or too soft

_______ difficulty with speech and annunciation; may stutter or have an impediment

_______ frequently bump into things or knock things over

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

_______ often reverse numbers and letters or process them backwards

_______ difficulty telling time on an analogue clock

_______ difficulty distinguishing different tastes and/or flavors of food or drinks

_______ difficulty lining up numbers correctly for math problems

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

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

_______ difficulty keeping up in classroom environments

_______ afraid to learn how to drive; is definitely not racing to get behind the wheel!

Sensory-Based Motor Abilities

_______ have been considered a klutz; clumsy, uncoordinated, accident prone, etc.

_______ have difficulty riding a bike or performing well in sports

_______ late to reach a wide variety of physical developmental milestones

_______ difficulty walking or balancing on uneven surfaces

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

_______ confuse right and left

_______ prefer sedentary tasks, avoiding sports or physical activities

_______ difficulty with handwriting; hard to read, write slowly, get wrist cramps

_______ use just one hand while holding objects; hard to use both sides of the body together

_______ can't keep a good grip on objects; weak grasp

_______ easily fatigued with physical tasks

_______ a messy eater, often spill and drop food; awkward with utensils

_______ often knock things over when reaching for them or something nearby

_______ have difficulty pouring drinks

_______ frequently drop items

_______ often hum or talk to self while concentrating on a task

_______ difficulty with motor tasks requiring several steps

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

_______ floppy body, noodle-like

Social and Emotional

_______ dislike changes in routines, needing consistancy

_______ can be described as defiant, stubborn or uncooperative

_______ very emotional and sensitive, crying or getting angry a lot

_______ distressed when transitioning from one activity to another

_______ may have separation anxiety (afraid to be alone or away from parents)

_______ prone to having meltdowns and outbursts

_______ may have excessive reflux, allergies, ear infections or digestion issues

_______ need comfort objects (blanket, stuffed animal, etc.) to remain calm

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

_______ not interested in hanging out with peers

_______ wander around aimlessly a lot; often lost in thought

_______ can't seem to finish projects or tasks

_______ difficulty making decisions; often unsure or lack an opinion

_______ seen as rigid, bossy, and controlling

_______ prefer solitary activities over group participation

_______ often impatient and/or impulsive

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

_______ difficulty with authority figures

_______ trouble relating to and socializing with peers

_______ difficulty accepting defeat or forgiving self

_______ frequently get angery or frustrated

_______ depression

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

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

_______ frequent panic or anxiety attacks

_______ have many fears and/or phobias

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

_______ easily distractible and often unorganized

_______ easily startled

_______ difficulty seeking out and maintaining relationships

_______ don't have many (or any) friends

_______ have not been on a date, or even considered dating

Internal Regulation

_______ difficulty getting to sleep at night

_______ very unpredictable sleep/wake cycle

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

_______ sleep a lot; often not alert, responding, working, playing, or interacting

_______ have a very hard time waking up

_______ heart rate issues (unnecessary speeding, not slowing down or speeding up when needed)

_______ over or under sensitive to bowel and bladder sensations

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

_______ chronic, irregular, and inconsistent bowel and bladder activity

_______ always feel hungry or don't ever want to eat

The above checklist was editted by Dan Travis and reposted from sensory-processing-disorder.com with the original author's permission.

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