How Seven Senses Affect Children’s Behavior


Disclaimer :: Cowtown Pediatrix sponsored and crafted this post about its occupational therapy services for sensory-affected children.

Let’s face it, no matter their age, children’s behavior can often be impossible to decode. One minute they’re fine and the next, they’re on the floor throwing the tantrum of their life, leaving you to wonder what on earth caused this drastic change?

What most parents may not realize is that what may look like a child misbehaving may often be related to his or her seven senses. Seven, you ask? While most people talk about the typical five senses — taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound — there are two others that are lesser known, perhaps because they are more difficult to explain.

Occupational TherapyThe vestibular sense relates to movement and balance. It’s what allows us to stay upright and gives us information about where our head and body are in space. Proprioception, or the body awareness sense,  tells us where our body parts are relative to each other. It also gives us information about how much force to use in certain activities, allowing us to crack open an egg without crushing it in our hands.

Sensory Processing Disorder

So, how can these seven senses affect a child’s behavior? When you’re in the moment with your child, it can often be impossible to decode the difference between a normal temper tantrum and one that could be caused by difficulties with processing the various senses.

  • Typical temper tantrum. These often occur when a child doesn’t possess the skills to properly express his or her emotions. For example, you’re at a playdate and you tell your child it’s time to go. Not being ready to leave, he may throw a tantrum because of the strong emotions your child is feeling, but he will eventually calm down.
  • Sensory temper tantrum. These are much less about a child trying to gain someone’s attention or get what he or she wants and are related to a negative response to some sort of sensory stimulus. It may be too loud, too bright, too crowded, or she may have a negative response to someone touching her or giving her a hug. All of these example are related to potential sensory processing challenges. The negative behavior will usually go away once the stimulus the child was having a negative response to has gone away. Your child is not misbehaving; she is simply overwhelmed.

When it comes to sensory processing challenges, your child can either have over-responsiveness or under-responsiveness to sensory stimulation.


  • Extreme response or fear of high-pitched or loud sounds.
  • Avoids cuddling and shys away from being touched even by familiar relatives or friends.
  • Avoids playground equipment like slides, swings, or anything they have to climb up.
  • Has poor balance and seems to fall more often than their peers.


  • Doesn’t understand personal space and will often invade other people’s personal space.
  • A constant need to touch things.
  • High tolerance or indifference to pain.
  • Fidgety and has a hard time sitting still.
  • Loves movement based activities like spinning and jumping.
  • May seem to actively seek out dangerous behavior.

If either of these categories sounds like your child, he or she may need extra help learning how to regulate his or her senses. What’s referred to as a sensory processing disorder can often come with a diagnosis of autism or ADD/ADHD or can appear solely on it’s own. Many children can have a combination of over-responsiveness AND under-responsiveness to certain stimuli.

The good news is that there are ways to resolve these challenges for your child. Occupational therapy can be a great option.

Occupational TherapistsOccupational Therapy to Regulate Senses

The easiest way to explain occupational therapy is that it helps kids learn how to be kids, i.e., their occupation at this point in their lives. People often associate occupational therapy with helping children with fine motor skills like handwriting, using scissors, etc., but it also can have huge benefits for children with sensory processing challenges.

Sensory integration therapy is a part of occupational therapy that works on all aspects of either over- or under-responsiveness to certain sensory stimuli. Sensory gyms filled with specialized types of swings, oversized pillows, weighted blocks, and ball pits all actually help “rewire” your child’s brain so he or she can appropriately integrate and respond to sensory input, to both make sense of and feel safer in the world.  

If you’ve found yourself nodding your head or breathing a sigh of relief as you read this article, Cowtown Pediatrix is here to help. The occupational therapists are specially trained in sensory integration therapy, and the clinic has two sensory gyms where they work with children of all ages.

With children being out of school, summer can be the perfect time to start therapy. Children love to come play in the sensory gyms and typically don’t even realize they’re in “therapy.”

Cowtown Pediatrix logoCowtown Pediatrix is a full-service occupational, speech, and feeding therapy clinic. Its experienced therapists have more than four decades of experience in working with children with a wide variety of developmental delays and diagnoses including sensory processing, sensory integration, visual motor integration, fine motor skills, speech delays, feeding challenges, autism, ADD, ADHD, and much more. Believing that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating children, the staff uses a multitude of diagnostic tests to evaluate a child in order to come up with a customized treatment plan unique to his or her needs. For more information or to schedule an evaluation, call 817-386-5500 or send an email to [email protected].


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