Joining in with Sensory Differences

Everybody experiences the world around them in different ways. Sometimes how your brain understands information from your senses can make it difficult to join in with every day activities.

Click on the sections below for quick access to each area or scroll down the page to see all the content.

Sensory Development

The following KIDS video explores the 7 sensory systems, or pathways through which information is inputted to the brain:

  • Sense of Vision
  • Sense of Hearing
  • Sense of Touch
  • Sense of Smell and Taste
  • Sense of Body Awareness
  • Sense of Movement and Balance

The 7 systems do not work in isolation; each overlaps and hopefully integrates with the others, although each has a specific role in providing a person with their 'sense of self'.

Watch our video to find out more about the sensory systems and how differences can affect children and young people.


Sensory Questionnaires

Everybody's sensory systems develop at different rates, and some people are more sensitive to certain sensory information than others.  This is perfectly normal and we only become concerned about how a person processes sensory information when it starts to interfere with their ability to take part in everyday activities.  If you think that your child/young person has sensory differences that are making it difficult for them to join in, we have devised some questionnaires that will provide you with individualised advice and guidance about how to help support your child/young person to cope with everyday sensory experiences. 

Information on each sensory system is available for 3 different age ranges;

  • 2-5 years
  • 5-12 years
  • 12-18 years

Choose a sensory questionnaire depending on what your child is finding difficult, then add your child's name and date of birth which will provide you with the correct questions for your child. 

Each question gives you the option of responding yes or no, choose the response that best describes your child. 

There is a blue help button for further information.

Complete all the questions and when you reach the end of the questionnaire you will be given the opportunities to download your child/young persons individualised strategies.  Either print them off or save them to refer to.

We use our vision to interpret information from all we see around us. Some children use their vision differently and can either be more sensitive to visual input (e.g. avoiding bright lights) or less sensitive (e.g. appearing not to see something right in front of them). If you suspect your child does not process visual information as well as they should please complete the following questionnaire and then try using the downloadable strategies to help them. If you have concerns about your child's ability to see things properly please take them to an optician for an eye test.

Listening to the world around us helps us make sense of where we are. Some children can be very sensitive to sound and can react badly to sudden loud noises. This is very common and is part of normal development, however some children can remain sensitive to sound much longer than others. Complete the following questionnaire and download the strategies provided if you feel your child displays some sensitivity to sound.

We experience touch all the time. Our clothes touch us, when we sit our bodies are in contact with the chair, when we stand our feet are touching either the inside of our socks and shoes or are in direct contact with the ground. We can never escape touch!! Some children can be very sensitive to touch; disliking certain textures or being very aware of the labels and seams inside clothing. Other children seem oblivious to touch and don't notice when their shoes are two sizes too small or don't feel pain like the rest of us. If you think your child feels touch differently why not complete the questionnaire and download the advice and ideas at the end?

Our senses of smell and taste are closely linked, as they follow the same neural pathway through the brain. Some people seem not to have a sense of smell, which can be useful in some circumstances (think teenagers bedrooms or school changing rooms!) Other people are so sensitive to certain tastes and smells that they can retch when they walk into a kitchen or classroom. Whilst this is not an issue for most people, it can be for others. It is almost impossible to change how people process smell or taste but you can try different strategies to help reduce the impact. Complete our questionnaire and then download the advice sheets.

Your sense of body awareness is also known as your PROPRIOCEPTIVE sense. It is proprioception that tells your body how your limbs are moving and how much force to use when lifting, squeezing or pushing things. If your sense of body awareness isn't well developed you can appear quite clumsy. If you feel your child is more clumsy than other children their age complete the following questionnaire and use the strategies provided to help them develop their sense of body awareness.

Your sense of movement and balance is known as your VESTIBULAR sense. The nerves that control your vestibular system are located in your inner ear and tell your brain what direction you are moving in, whether your head is up, down or turned to the side, and helps your body stay upright against gravity. Some children can be very sensitive to movement because for them a little bit of movement feels very big and scary. Other children don't register movement as well as others and so they tend to seek out movement all the time! If you think your child moves too much or too little complete this questionnaire and use the strategies to help them develop their sense of movement.

Sensory Boxes

Children require a varied 'sensory diet' or in other words to experience lots of different sensory sensation in order for their sensory systems to develop and mature.  That is why it is so important for them to have as many different play opportunities as possible, and not to spend long periods of time in front of a computer/game console or TV screen.  Rough and tumble, messy and explorative play are all important ways to give your child as wide and varied a sensory diet as possible.

Some children have a particular sensory system that needs extra input, and in such cases it can be helpful to pull together a collection of toys and materials that provide specific stimulus to that sensory system.  These resources are known as 'Sensory Boxes'.

These leaflets provide some suggestions for ideas to keep in your sensory boxes.  This is by no means an exhaustive list but provides you with some ideas to get started.  Once you start looking at the world around you through more 'sensory aware' eyes you will notice potential resources everywhere you go!

You can download the printable resource for labels to put on the top and side of your box in case you develop a collection of sensory boxes for your home, nursery or school.


Intu Braehead Shopping Centre in Glasgow now hire out sensory bags to help children with autism and children with sensory processing difficulties.

Click here for more information

Falkirk Council Sensory Booklets

Falkirk Council Children with Disabilities Team have published a number of booklets providing lots of useful information and ideas for supporting your child's sensory behaviours.

What Next?

Try the strategies for a minimum of 3 months.  It takes time for your child to get used to the strategies and whether or not the strategies are working for your child.  If the sensory concern has not resolved despite your consistent use of the strategies and the sensory differences are preventing your child from joining in with everyday activities then contact your local Occupational Therapy Team (see below) for further support.

Paediatric Occupational Therapy Teams within Greater Glasgow & Clyde (GG&C)

There are 4 sectors within GG&C for Paediatric Occupational Therapy:

• North West Sector which includes West Dunbartonshire and parts of East Dunbartonshire
 North East Sector which includes parts of East Dunbartonshire
 South Sector which includes East Renfrewshire 
 Inverclyde and Renfrewshire Sector

Please find below all OT addresses and telephone numbers for your specific area within GG&C:

  • Acorn Centre

Child Health Corridor

3rd Floor, Maternity Building

Vale of Leven Hospital

Main Street


G83 0UA

Telephone Number: 01389 817284


  • West Centre

60 Kinfauns Drive


G15 7TS

Telephone Number: 0141 207 7150

Aranthrue Centre

103 Paisley Road



Telephone Number: 0141 314 8989

Skylark Centre

L North

Inverclyde Royal Hospital


PA16 0XN

Telephone 01475 504630

  • Bridgeton Child Centre

201 Abercromby Street


G40 2DA

Telephone Number: 0141 531 6566


  • Woodside Health & Care Centre

891 Garscube Road


G20 7ER

Telephone Number: 0141 201 5685/5718

Southbank Child Centre

207 Old Rutherglen Road


G5 0RE

Telephone number: 0141 201 0938

School for Fidgets Video

A film developed by Children’s Occupational Therapy at Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust about fidgeting in relation to self-regulation, engagement, participation, learning and wellbeing. The film is aimed at education staff, health professionals, families and carers and also children and young people who may relate to some of the content.