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For kids who are super sensors, all sensory input (a passing train, a cheering crowd, an itchy clothing seam) has equal importance. And it can make navigating the everyday challenging.

We asked pediatric occupational therapist Judy Katz what to watch for when it comes to super sensors (aka kids with “sensory processing disorder” or “sensory integration dysfunction”). Here are 11 possible signs.

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1. They Cover Their Ears
If your child has trouble filtering out sensory input, being in a loud environment—like a concert, movie theater or department store—could be too much for them. They often regulate by covering their ears with their hands or wearing headphones.

2. They’re Distracted
Sure, it’s in a kid’s nature to follow the fun. But if he’s playing a game of Candy Land and gets totally sidetracked when a bird starts chirping, it could be something to keep tally of.

3. They Seek Out (or Avoid) Certain Movements
Super sensors react differently to sensory input. On one hand, they might crave more, constantly trying to feed their nervous system. On the other hand, a child might try to avoid movement—especially movement that disrupts the vestibular system, like a somersault—because they don’t like how it makes them feel.


4. Their Clothes Are Irritating
Just as a child might seek out more movement or less, a super sensor might feel their clothes are too tight or too loose. They might also complain about itchy tags and seams.

5. They Have Food Sensitivities
OK, most kids will spit out their brussels sprouts, but we’re talking about more specific aversions to certain textures (like crunchy or mushy) that seem to pop up repeatedly.

6. They Have Difficulty Changing Routines
Super sensors work very hard at feeling safe and comfortable in their environments. So when their routine is switched—from being woken up at a different time to having their furniture moved around—that comfort and safety are thrown up in the air.


7. They’re Sensitive to Sunlight
The sun is bright, bright, bright, and super sensors can be highly affected by its glare. They might squint their eyes or choose to always wear sunglasses.

8. They’re Fearful of Certain Sounds
We can’t think of anybody who loves the noise of a roaring vacuum cleaner or bathroom hand dryer. But a super sensor might have an even more heightened reaction to these types of sounds.


9. They’re Anxious About Participating
Considering all of the above, family gatherings, birthday parties, going to the grocery store or seeing a basketball game might be too much for them. And so…

10. They Throw Tantrums
What appears to be a run-of-the-mill temper tantrum could actually be caused by sensory discomfort. And since we’re talking about kids here, sometimes the best way for them to communicate their discomfort is by banging their hands on the floor.

11. You Feel Like They Need Extra Protection from the World
It’s a common feeling among parents of super sensors, so it’s important for these parents to be super detectives. If you’re concerned about your child, seek out an occupational therapist with sensory integration training.

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