Is Your Child’s Action a Sensory Delay or a Behavior Issue?

The challenge with basic parenting books is that they assume that all of your child’s actions are behavior based. In other words, if you parent in the way they propose, your child should respond with appropriate behavior. But what if your child’s “disobedient” action is not behavior related at all?

Your child’s actions very well might be caused by sensory delay. If this is the case, then typical parenting techniques will probably not work. They might even cause more challenges.

Everyone has to process sensory input

We all experience our world through our senses. And even as an adult many of us struggle with processing sensory input.

I struggle with processing audio input like crowded, noisy rooms. I used to think that my struggle was a personality thing. Then I learned that it was a sensory issue. Someone could easily interpret my behavior as non-social, introverted, and maybe even arrogant. But in reality, I withdraw, stand quietly in the corner, or even leave the room simply because I can’t handle the sensory input.

Now before you shake your head at how strange that sounds, think about how you process sensory input. What situations cause you to feel anxious or out of control? Or, what do you do to help you concentrate on a task?

Do you sometimes over-react to a situation and later wonder why you did that? Ever think that you simply had trouble with processing the sensory input?

How can you tell what is the cause of your child’s (or anyone’s child) action?

First of all, please don’t blame yourself if your child suffers from sensory processing challenges. Many different things can attribute to a child’s struggles with sensory processing. If a child has experienced any kind of trauma, especially from pre-natal to one-year-old, that’s a likely cause. But it can also simply be genetic or environmental.

The first thing to do is to correctly identify your child’s action, so that you have the appropriate response. Because if your child’s actions are caused by trouble processing their sensory world, and you attempt to correct “bad” behavior, well let’s just say you won’t have much success.

Here are some resources that might help:

Sensory Checklist

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Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation website

Creative Therapies with Marti Smith

The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun, Revised Edition: Activities for Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder

The video below does a great job of addressing Proprioceptive sensory challenges (your body’s ability to perceive movement and spatial stimulus).


If you are beginning to identify your child’s (or one that you are the teach or caretaker of) actions as sensory delay/challenges rather than behavior issues, first let me remind you to not blame yourself. Now that you understand what the cause is, you can be a part of the child’s path to healing and ability to process sensory input.

You can find a few more resources on my Orphan Care Resource List.

Please leave a comment below if you have any resources you can add.

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I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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