Sugar Aunts: Organization and Attention Challenges Related to Sensory Processing Disorders

Organization and Attention Challenges Related to Sensory Processing Disorders

Kids with sensory needs often times have organization difficulties.  They are distracted by their body's need for sensory integration and are challenged to focus on tasks at hand due difficulties with inattention.

While sensory kids might have attention problems, typically developing kids are also learning to work with the distractions of multi-sensorial input to focus on tasks.  You might see visual inattention that causes a child to skip words when copying from a book.  You might see them forget to put their homework folder in their backpack at the end of the school day. It's kind of like a jumble of beads in where all of the colors are so distracting that it's hard to pull out the ones that are most important.  Then the beads spill and you've got a disorganized mess to deal with on top of everything else that needs to happen in your day. 


Sensory Processing components and considerations for the disorganized and inattentive child.  This site contains lots of attention and organization strategies for kids with sensory processing disorders from an Occupational Therapist.




There are normal everyday distractions that all of us are managing.  I for one am currently distracted by kids, schedules, deadlines, and the need to pull frozen chicken out of the fridge so that we can eat dinner later.  A child with sensory needs is distracted by the input their body craves and the overwhelming input that they are constantly bombarded with.

When attention is a primary difficulty relating to disorganization in kids, there are ways to work around and help.

Other reasons for being inattentive:

  • Impulsivity
  • Overwhelming and confusing sensory input makes navigating sensory information
  • Trouble staying on a task
  • Trouble identifying priorities
  • Focus on anxiety limits ability to stay on task
  • Rigidity causing difficulty transitioning into new tasks
  • Motor insecurity (fine motor or gross motor, visual motor, sensori-motor) causes trouble getting started on a task.
  • Low frustration tolerance to difficult tasks.  These kids might not try a task to avoid a frustrated meltdown as a compensatory strategy

How can Parents Help a Child with Sensory Related Attention and Organization Problems?

So, how can a worried parent or involved teacher help kids who are struggling with attention problems and resulting disorganization?  We've recently shared tips to help with attention at home and at school.  But what if all of the modifications and adaptations to your child's day are just not working?

What if, as a Mom or a Dad, you are at your wit's end with your child's poor attention...the behaviors...your child's seemingly intentional disregard to directions and others around them. Sometimes, there is a reason for these actions.  They aren't always intentional.  They aren't always ADHD related. They aren't always the actions of a "bad kid".

Sometimes, there is an underlying reason for disorganization issues.  There is a sensory component.  

A child with sensory processing difficulties might have trouble blocking out lights, noises, and movements of others.  They might drop their pencil and not even realize it.  They might have difficulty with handwriting. They might bump into others in lines at school or bounce off the walls at home.  Do these sound familiar?  

There are many indications of children who are overly sensitive to typical daily activities:


  • Overreact to bright lights and loud noises.
  • Demonstrate meltdowns when overwhelmed
  • Complain about itchy tags or clothing seams, including the seam along the toes in socks.  Refuse to wear certain textures, and complain that they are too rough or scratchy.
  • Difficulty with sensing how much force they need to apply in tasks; they might press too hard when writing, rip the paper when erasing, or slam down objects.
  • Trouble knowing where their body is in relation to other objects or people.
  • Overly distracted by noises in the classroom.
  • Appears clumsy.
  • Avoid hugs and cuddling even with family members.
  • Overly fearful of movement including swings, slides, and merry-go-rounds.
  • Bump into other students in school lines, or crashes into objects.
  • Tendency to bolt or run away when they're overwhelmed to get away from stressors or fears of unfamiliar situations.
There are also indications of children who are under-responsive to sensory stimulation and seek out more sensory input:
  • Constantly touch people or textures.
  • Loves active play.
  • Crave fast, spinning and/or intense movement.
  • Enjoys heavy deep pressure like tight bear hugs.
  • Disregard or no understanding of personal space.
  • Very high tolerance for pain.
  • Very fidgety and unable to sit still, especially when the child is expected to sit still.
  • Seeks out jumping, bumping and crashing activities.
  • Loves jumping on furniture and trampolines.
  • Loves playground equipment like swings, merry-go-rounds and slides.
It's easy to understand how a child with either a low or a high tolerance to sensory stimulation can show inattention to focused tasks.  There is so much information coming at them at once and they are unable to filter out what is unnecessary while attending to a directions like "Get your homework out of your back pack" or "Brush your teeth, your hair, and put on your shoes."  How can they possibly keep themselves organized in tasks?


While no two children are alike, there are many sensory processing treatments that can help with attention and organization.  Movement activities, core strengthening, and sensory integration therapy can help with attention in kids.  In fact, sensory integration treatment interventions "may result in positive outcomes in sensorimotor skills and motor planning; socialization, attention, and behavioral regulation; reading-related skills; participation in active play; and achievement of individualized goals." (From here.) 

Some of our favorite ways to engage the sensory systems in sensory integration activities are: 


Try using these techniques to help your child sort out all of the information, and just like those beads that are all over the floor?  Create beautiful moments in your day!

Sensory Processing components and considerations for the disorganized and inattentive child.  This site contains lots of attention and organization strategies for kids with sensory processing disorders from an Occupational Therapist.



Be sure to stop by and see recommendations for Attention difficulties at home and at school, part of a recent Organization series that we've shared:







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