Sensory describes the way the body responds to environmental stimuli or information, like sounds, textures, lights, smells, pain, and temperature. Kids who are blind or have low vision, and kids who are Deaf or hard of hearing, have reduced sensory awareness.
Sensory concerns also include extreme reactions or behaviour in response to sensory information. Some kids can find certain sensory information uncomfortable or distressing. For example, some kids may be bothered by loud noises (e.g., covering their ears or become upset in large crowds), while others may be oversensitive to certain textures (e.g., being bothered by some fabrics, tags on clothing, or types of food). Some kids can also show an interest in sensory stimuli, like sniffing toys or objects, or being fascinated by lights or movement. Some kids can show under-responsiveness to some types of sensory information, like pain or temperature, which can increase their risk of getting hurt.
All kids can show sensitivity to some types of sensory stimuli, but they often grow out of them or are able to manage it without becoming too distressed.
Kids with developmental delays or difficulties, such as autism spectrum disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, are more likely to have sensory challenges. They may find some sensory stimuli very uncomfortable and distressing, while they find other sensory stimuli comforting. All kids will differ in the type and severity of sensory concerns they have. For example, some kids with autism spectrum disorder will show many sensory concerns, while others may have none or very few. Every child is different.
Kids who are oversensitive to noise may cover their ears or cry when they hear loud noises (e.g., a siren, a whistle, yelling, lots of people talking, or an alarm). Some kids may be bothered by textures like mud or dirt, and may find it harder to play footy in different weather conditions. Kids who find comfort in particular smells or textures may do things like sniff objects (e.g., the footy or other equipment), or they may like to touch particular items or surfaces. Some kids may not feel the cold and will want to wear only shorts in winter, while others may not feel the heat and will wear warm clothes in hot weather. Kids who have altered sense of pain may not realise they have been hurt or there may be a delay in them feeling pain, while some kids may be very sensitive to pain and show distress with something that appears to be only a minor incident.