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While most babies embrace their world with curiosity and excitement, some may develop avoidance behaviors or irrational fears. These babies may have sensory issues. While sensory issues might not make much sense to you, they can distress your baby and lead to withdrawal at a time when he needs to explore. You can help him in this process if you can figure out his triggers.
Some babies are hypersensitive to touch. Others are hyposensitive, needing more tactile stimulation. A hypersensitive baby might arch her back or twist away if you try to cuddle. She may dislike the touch of certain materials. Diaper changes might upset her. Getting her hands dirty might also distress her. A hyposensitive child might enjoy firm hugs and touch other people and objects frequently. She may bite herself, pinch her skin or bang her head.
Some infants develop defensive oral hypersensitivity behaviors. She might gag easily or have difficulty eating foods unless they have a pureed consistency. A baby who is under responsive to oral stimulation might mouth everything, drool longer than most children, and prefer food with a more intense flavor. He might also chew on clothing, fingers and hair.
If your baby squints, rubs his eyes and tries to turn his head away from light, he might have hypersensitivity to visual stimuli. Other objects in the room might easily distract him and he may rub his eyes frequently or avoid eye contact. If he's hyposensitive, he might have difficulty following moving objects, or might respond only if you approach him from a certain angle. Once he starts to move, he might bump into objects or people.
In most cases, children learn to handle uncomfortable sensory stimuli as they grow. In some infants, sensory issues persist to school age and beyond. In a study published in the July 2010 "Journal of Abnormal Psychiatry," early sensory difficulties correlated with sensory processing disorders in elementary school. Occupational therapists use sensory-based therapies as part of the treatment plan to overcome sensory issues. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics cautions that proof of the effectiveness of these therapies is limited and inconclusive.