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Sensory Integration Disorder

Question of the Week

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Updated October 31, 2004

Q. My 6-year old son's teacher has informed me that he has been reprimanded a number of times for "touching" other children when he talks with them, or when he is trying to get someone's attention (e.g. on the arm, or face or shoulder). This certainly wasn't a problem when I went to school, and I see nothing wrong with this, but I'm forced to accept the situation. I'm at my wit's end trying to explain to this little guy that he must stop doing this, but I'm getting nowhere. The teacher said he might be suffering from a form of "sensory deprivation". Do you think he actually has some underlying problem here? Thank you. Lacey, Flushing, New York

A. It can be an underlying problem if it is disruptive at school and if he does it so much that it bothers other children and they don't want to be around him.

However, if he is otherwise growing and developing normally, it doesn't necessarily mean that there is a specific condition that is causing him to do it.

There are a number of conditions that are associated with children being very 'touchy' like this though, including ADHD. But what your child's teacher is likely talking about is Sensory Integration Disorder, which is also called Sensory Integration Dysfunction.

Children with Sensory Integration Dysfunction often have extreme sensitivity to touch and other senses and can have symptoms of ADHD, such as easy distractibility and impulsivity. They also can have social problems and developmental delays.

Keep in mind that children often don't like being touched like this, so even if you don't think that your child has any kind of disorder and that this is just a part of his personality, it is likely something you should help him control. This is especially important if he is getting in trouble at school for doing this.

As with other 'bad' habits, it may help to do some role playing, where you pretend to be another child at school, and help him to practice talking and respecting the personal space of others. It can also help to offer lots of positive reinforcement when he talks and doesn't touch too much. If it becomes a bigger problem, an evaluation and treatment by a child psychologist might also be a good idea.

If you don't think that this is a problem at all, then you might ask if the school counselor or somebody else can observe your child at school and get their opinion about what he is doing.

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