Who could benefit from Occupational Therapy?

If you have been referred to Occupational Therapy by another therapist, doctor or teacher, the best way to learn more about the benefits of an assessment is to speak to an Occupational Therapist in the field of paediatrics.

If you think your child would benefit from an Occupational Therapy Assessment, the following information may help you decide if you should speak to an Occupational Therapist.

We all have our own unique preferences and aversions when it comes to the way perceive the sensory information in our surroundings. But for some children, these preferences and aversions can become problematic, leading to difficulty participating in everyday activities and routines.

The following behaviours are sensory integration or sensory processing red flags and may indicate that a child requires additional support.


The Auditory System

  • Extreme reactions (crying, screaming, running away) or significant difficulty with tolerating sudden noises, specific noises, crowds and/ or loud noises.
  • Startling easily, becoming agitated in noisy environments
  • Distracted by all sounds
  • Covering ears even at the anticipation of a sound or in uncertain/unfamiliar environments
  • Difficulty responding to and following directions presented verbally
  • Making constant noises (singing, humming, clicking)
  • Not responding when name is called

The Vestibular System

  • Constantly moving, fidgeting, spinning around
  • Fearful of movement (e.g. stairs, playground equipment, swings)
  • Uncoordinated, clumsy, bumping into things, falling, difficulty learning new motor tasks
  • Slumping, slouching, leaning on desk or on walls when walking in the hallway
  • Difficulty with maintaining balance when walking and during gross motor play

The Proprioceptive System

  • Colouring/writing with heavy pressure or not enough pressure
  • Pushing others, playing aggressively
  • Doing everything with 100% force, not grading the force of movements adequately
  • Crashing/falling on the floor constantly throughout the day
  • Difficulty with body awareness (runs into objects/others)
  • Appearing tired or sluggish (slumping and leaning)

The Visual System

  • Easily distracted by surrounding visual stimuli (e.g. posters or art on the walls, activity in the room).
  • Difficulty visually focusing on a task like coloring a picture or completing a worksheet
  • Not noticing surroundings unless things are pointed out
  • Staring intently at objects or becoming fixated on visual stimuli (e.g. fans, lights)
  • Arranging objects in a specific way repeatedly (e.g. lining objects up, stacking objects up)

The Oral Sensory System

  • Very reluctant to trying new foods, extremely picky eater
  • Extreme resistance to oral sensory experiences like brushing teeth
  • Refusal to use utensils to eat
  • Choking or gagging during eating or brushing teeth
  • Constant biting, chewing on, or mouthing hands, clothing, fingers, toys, and other objects
  • Biting others
  • Constantly making mouth noises (clicking, buzzing, humming)
  • Stuffing mouth with food at mealtimes
  • Difficulty with chewing or drinking from a cup or straw

The Tactile System

  • Avoiding getting hands or face messy
  • Avoiding activities like fingerpainting, play dough, and eating messy foods
  • Extreme reactions or tantrums during toothbrushing, bathing, haircuts, dressing
  • Difficulty tolerating certain clothing, textures on skin (e.g. tags on clothing)
  • Needing to touch everything and everyone (e.g. craving hugs and closeness with others, fidgeting with objects, seeking out textures and touch experiences)