Parents and “Gut Feelings” About Sensory Issues

This post describes sensory processing red flags that can help parents recognize their child’s’ sensory processing issues. These gut feelings can help kids to get the sensory input they need for independence and functioning.

Sometimes parents just know there is something “off” with their child.  That deep, inner gut feeling is what lets us know that there is just something different about the way their child interacts, processes information, or performs in daily tasks.  That ability to recognize gut feelings allows us to know there is an unsuspected ear infection in our toddler or it might be the one red flag that nags at us during sleepless nights that something bigger is going on with our child.

You might have heard it said before: Mom’s always have that gut feeling about their child.  Well, sometimes that inner voice can be a loud scream that a child has sensory issues or it can be a quiet nagging sense that there are underlying sensory processing problems.

Below, you’ll find common and more unique “gut feelings” that might indicate a sensory processing problem in children.  These are the quieter indications that might make you furl your eyebrows or question a behavior that your child seems to show over and over again.

Use these sensory processing red flags as a way to put the whole picture together for your child.  Any one behavior or tendency that shows up with your child may be a meaningless coincidence, however if a child presents with several items on the list below, it may be necessary to speak to your child’s pediatrician.  Use these sensory processing red flags to ease that gut feeling that you have and seek out the information or help that is needed for your child.

Sensory processing red flags for parents to help identify sensory needs in kids


Sensory Processing Red Flags

Get a free printable checklist version of this list below.
My child has specific behaviors during his/her day.
My child has strange tendencies.
My child seems different in many ways than other children his/her age.
My child has trouble “switching gears”.
My child has trouble with transitions.
My child seems “off” during outings such as the grocery store, church, or doctor’s offices.
My child has trouble in social situations such as holiday get-togethers, birthday parties, or classroom free time.
My child doesn’t seem confident.
My child prefers certain textures, sounds, sights, tastes, scents, positions, or movements.
My child avoids certain textures, sounds, sights, tastes, scents, positions, or movements.
My child doesn’t act like other kids.
My child gets upset by confined spaces.
My child gets upset by certain sounds like lawnmowers. 
My child is difficult to calm down at times.
My child wakes up at “full speed” and doesn’t stop all day.
My child can not control the volume of his/her voice.
My child can not stop jumping/spinning/bouncing/crashing.
My child strictly avoids jumping/spinning/bouncing/crashing.
My child is drawn to specific repetitive motions or activities.
My child strictly avoids specific repetitive motions or activities.
My child seems to have a problem that is difficult to pin point. 
My child seems to struggle to keep up with other kids.
My child has no fear. 
My child has extreme fears.
My child seems withdrawn at times.
My child doesn’t seem to notice details.
My child seems overly preoccupied with details.
My child doesn’t seem to notice when they fall and get hurt.
My child doesn’t notice dangerous situations (age-appropriately).
My child avoids certain food textures.


Sensory red flags checklist

Do any of these gut feelings sound familiar?  There are many red flags on the list above that are conflicting signs of different problems.  Not every concern that is noted above will be seen of every child with sensory processing difficulties.  Every child is different, but the concerns noted above will be indications to seek out more information and issues that should be brought up to your child’s pediatrician.

Be sure to check out our resource, our sensory processing disorder chart, to better understand how differences impact kids in different ways.

Get a free printable checklist version of this checklist below.

Parents and gut feelings about sensory processing issues


sensory processing red flags
You may also be interested in the free printable packet, The Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit.


The Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit is a printable packet of resources and handouts that can be used by teachers, parents, and therapists. Whether you are looking for a handout to explain sensory strategies, or a tool for advocating for your child, the Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit has got you covered.


And it’s free for you to print off and use again and again.


In the Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit, you’ll find:


  • Fidgeting Tools for the Classroom
  • Adapted Seating Strategies for the Classroom
  • Self-Regulation in the Classroom
  • 105 Calm-down Strategies for the Classroom
  • Chewing Tools for Classroom Needs
  • 45 Organizing Tools for Classroom Needs
  • Indoor Recess Sensory Diet Cards
Sensory Strategies for the Classroom

Free Classroom Sensory Strategies Toolkit

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    Free Sensory Processing Red Flags Handout

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      Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to

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