The best thing you can do as a parent when your child misbehaves is to teach them why their behavior is unacceptable. As a parent, you have to teach them how to do what you tell them to do, how to get along with other kids, and how to refrain from splattering food around when they eat.
However, sometimes the reason why they misbehave may not be what you might think. Your child’s behavior may not be due to a willful disobedience.
If your child complains about how uncomfortable their new socks, undies, or tees feel, then their misbehavior might be due to sensory processing issues. Try shopping at smartknitkids.com the next time you buy them clothes to see if soft, form-fitting clothes that don’t bunch will make a difference.
If your child has sensory processing issues, you will notice a few other behavior traits as well:
- · Your child is distracted by everything going on around them because of problems with hearing, smelling, touching, or tasting.
- · Your child finds it difficult to practice writing or doing a drawing because of visual problems that make it difficult for them to understand new information.
- · Your child gets upset when asked to do a simple chore or change activities because it pushes them out of their comfort zone.
- · Your child appears inordinately clumsy, running into things and spilling drinks because they have a poor sense of body awareness and have difficulty with movement, balance, and coordination.
Misdiagnosis is Common
Unfortunately, many child psychologists misdiagnose sensory processing issues, assuming the child’s behavior problems are due to some type of learning disorder.
There are usually three reasons for this error:
- Child psychologists rarely come across children with sensory processing issues.
- There is not much psychological literature on this problem.
- Many of the symptoms of sensory processing issues can easily be mistaken for symptoms associated with ADD or ADHD. Failure to pay attention, high distractibility, restlessness, and unprovoked agitation are often symptomatic of these two types of learning disorders.
Hard to Detect
Usually the first thing that comes to mind when a child psychologist hears about the child’s inability to follow a teacher’s instructions in class, cope with classroom assignments requiring written work, or do homework is that these problems are due to a learning disorder. However, another reason is that sensory processing issues split into two opposite variations. A child may be oversensitive, or, at the other extreme, undersensitive.
Oversensitive children find bright lights intolerable. They are also extremely disturbed by loud sounds like a dog barking next door. In fact, they may hear sounds that most people don’t even notice.
Additionally, they find most regular clothing extremely irritating. They constantly complain about how their undergarments chafe, how their collar is too tight, or how their shoes are too small for them.
Despite an intense longing to be loved, they find hugs, kisses, and cuddling from parents, grandparents, and sibling intolerable. It makes them physically uncomfortable.
Oversensitive children find it difficult to play with other children because they have problems with body awareness, movement, balance, and coordination.
A playground may fill them with terror. They see themselves surrounded by dangerous swings, see-saws, and other menacing playground equipment.
When playing with others in a game, they may accidentally knock down their playmates when running or bump into things and injure themselves because of poor body awareness.
Poor body awareness affects schoolwork. When writing something with a pencil, they may press so hard it breaks the tip; and when erasing, they may rub so hard they tear the paper.
Sitting down to eat a meal can also be disastrous. They may squeeze a hamburger too hard or spill drinks when reaching for a bottle or glass.
Due to these problems on the playground, in the classroom, and in a community dining room, oversensitive kids are often shunned by their peers. They are perceived as playing rough on the playground and as extremely clumsy because they break things by squeezing or pressing too hard. Because of this ostracism, oversensitive kids have social anxiety problems. They are quickly overwhelmed by any sort of criticism and have emotional meltdowns. When feeling highly pressured by a social situation, they may run out of the room.
Undersensitive children suffer as much as oversensitive children, but in a slightly different way.
Instead of fearing others who want to hug or cuddle, they constantly want to cling to other people. This inevitably irritates others. On the playground, they crowd other children’s personal space, don’t notice when they have been injured, and do reckless things like jumping from high places.
They, too, experience problems in the classroom and when sharing meals with others. And they, too, experience social ostracism and have emotional meltdowns.
If you think your child’s behavior problems are due to sensory processing issues, see a child therapist, explain your reasons to suspect that your child’s problem is due to sensory processing issues and not a learning disorder, and ask for an accurate diagnosis. After a diagnosis, your child will work with an occupational therapist. Occupational therapists can be found working in private practice or within the school system. They will teach your child how to manage their sensory issues and establish a normal life.