Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Checklist For Teachers and Parents; Understanding Signs And Symptoms

Last Updated on February 4, 2022 by Editorial Team


The sensory processing disorder (SPD) checklist is a tool for parents and professionals to educate themselves about signs of sensory processing dysfunctions. However, it is not an alternative to a professional diagnosis. A professional has many other tools apart from a checklist to conclude if a child has a sensory dysfunction. 

If your child has signs of sensory integration dysfunctions, you could consult an occupational therapist or paediatrician and move on to the sensory processing treatment. All the resources should come together to form a sensory diet and treatment for your child. 

An SPD checklist is for your knowledge as a starting point, a guide to decide if your child needs assistance or not. That said, you could refer to this checklist as a parent or a teacher to identify your children’s sensory integration challenges. 

It’s crucial to have an insight into your child’s development. So first let’s find out how to use a sensory checklist. 

How to use a sensory processing disorder (SPD) checklist? 

Sensory checklists are just a starting point educational tool. But how do we go about using them?  Most importantly, what do they include? 

Sensory checklists include some of the most common sensory dysfunction characteristics in a household or classroom environment. As no one checklist is exhaustive, the ideal approach would be to refer to multiple high-quality checklists from reliable sources. 

Children may display some signs of the behaviour patterns in the given checklist. However, the problem only arises and becomes a concern when those patterns interrupt our quality of life.  

Carol Stock Kranowitz in her book The Out Of Sync Child gives reader’s concrete information on testing checklists and how to use them to evaluate whether a child has a sensory processing disorder or not. Parents and teachers who think they have children with behaviour difficulties must try to read the book. 

Here are the six guidelines from the book on how to approach the sensory processing disorder checklists: 

  1. The child with sensory processing disorder may not exhibit all the characteristics in the checklist. There are several sensory disorders and no one child can have them all, but only a few. 
  2. Usually, children with SPD struggle with more than one senses. However, they may exhibit a concentration of problems in one system. For example, a child with a dysfunctional tactile system may find touch intolerable but be a good listener. 
  3. Depending on the time and context, a child may exhibit the signs of being overresponsive and under-responsive. Context makes a huge difference. For example, the same child may cope well with touch on a good day but may have a meltdown during a particularly difficult occasion. 
  4. SPD disorder categories often overlap with each other and may merge with other types of developmental disorders. 
  5. Sometimes a child may display a sign of one SPD, yet he may be struggling with a different disorder altogether. For example, a child who seems intolerant towards bright light may have a trauma related to bright lights. 
  6. All of us struggle with sensory processing problems once in a while. None of us is well regulated 24*7. Stimuli overload could disrupt the functioning of the brain at any point it is exposed to too little or too much sensory stimuli.

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) checklist for teachers and parents

Characteristics of Tactile Dysfunction:

  1. Negative or emotional response to touch sensations, displaying signs of anxiety or aggression. As a baby, the child may reject cuddling altogether.
  2. Aversion to touch on the face. For example, a child may have a fight or flight response when you wash his face. 
  3. Negative response when the hair on the child’s body is displaced. For example, a strong breeze puts him in a state of restlessness. 
  4. Excessively ticklish to the touch. 
  5. Avoids walking barefoot on the surface. For example, the child resists walking on sand on the beach or grass or wading in water. 
  6. Withdrawing from certain activities solely to avoid being touched. 

Characteristics of Sight Dysfunction: 

  1. Difficulty focusing on static targets. For example, the child may frequently lose his place in a book. He rereads words and lines and often requires their finger to keep their place on a page. 
  2. Withdrawing from classroom participation. For example, being uncomfortable and overwhelmed when an object is thrown at them or when another child runs towards them. 
  3. Difficulty with depth perception. Getting overwhelmed by objects in motions due to not being able to discriminate between what is in motion and what is motionless 
  4. A poor attention span while copying information from the board or reading. For example, he may struggle with a poor visual memory of what he has read. 
  5. Poor eye-hand coordination while playing or using tools, or dressing, or doing academic tasks. For example, he is unable to guide his hand movements required for drawing. Or his writing is poorly spaced or crooked.
  6. Difficulty in maintaining eye-ear coordination. For example, he may mispronounce similar words. He may read out words silently before saying them out loud.  

Characteristics of Hearing Dysfunction: 

  1. Distressed reaction to sounds that do not bother others, like toilet flushing or school bell. Aversion to background music or high-pitched sound coming from whistles, violins or screeching chalk. 
  2. Difficulty in differentiating between sounds. For example, he may find it hard to recognize the difference between the near sound and distant banging. Or between a pleasant noise and an angry rant.
  3. Poor sense of rhythm and timing. For example, he may find it hard to sing or clap in sync with the other students in the class. He may also find it difficult to jump ropes or display similar signs while playing band instruments. 
  4. Regularly asks to repeat the instructions. For example, he is more likely to ask for clarification for simple directions and descriptions.
  5. Difficulty in finishing conversations with other people. For example, he may hesitate to respond to others’ questions and comments due to the lack of understanding of what they said.
  6. Difficulty with speech articulation. For example, he may struggle to respond to receptive and expressive language. For example, he may not speak clearly enough to be understood. 

Characteristics of Vestibular Dysfunction: 

  1. Uncomfortable behaviour in elevators or escalators. Perhaps, experiencing car sickness on regular basis. 
  2. Avoids playground activities involving balance, such as sliding, spinning or swinging. 
  3. Holds tightly to the railing of a staircase and be fearful to them in general. 
  4. Displays signs of discomfort when his feet leave the ground. Or be fearful of heights in general.
  5. Inefficient response to the objects coming at him. Unable to protect himself by extending his foot or hands to catch himself. 
  6. Difficulties in making hands and feet work together. For example, during the play of catch or jumping.

Characteristics of Proprioception Dysfunction: 

  1. Upsetting reactions to the passive motions of limbs. Aversion to stretching and contracting his muscles. 
  2. Difficulties in standing due to low muscle tone. Compensating by putting knees tightly together.
  3. Bumps and crashes deliberately into the different objects in the environment. For example, tackling people or jumping from high places. 
  4. Engaging in overstimulating activities by himself. For example, headbanging or knuckle cracking or nail-biting. 
  5. Poor coordination while planning and executing a movement. For example, putting an eyeglass could be particularly hard for a child with a poor discrimination sense. 
  6. Picking up objects with less or more force than necessary. For example, he may complain about how a glass of milk is too heavy to lift. 


Carol Stock Kranowitz in her book says SPD is like indigestion, but for the brain. Similar to how an antacid corrects the PH level of an upset stomach, sensory diet and occupational therapy can soothe neural pathways. During the therapy, your Love as a teacher or a parent could give your child emotional security, especially when times are difficult. With enough support, your children could become in sync with the world.

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