Sensory Processing and Trauma

Our ability to absorb and process the sensory information we receive from our environment has an impact on our behaviour, our ability to communicate, our attachments, our coordination and our daily living skills. Children who have suffered abuse or severe neglect in the womb or early childhood may have difficulties coping with stress. These children are often hyper-vigilant and have a tendency to react to seemingly "normal" situations with a fight, flight or freeze response. This can affect their capacity to filter out irrelevant sensory information such as background sounds as they have become sensitised to the possibility of danger.

As a result of this hyper-vigilance, children struggle to regulate their emotional and arousal states and develop behavioural strategies to help them survive. These behaviours will vary from child to child, depending on their early years' experience and the sensory stimuli they're reacting to. Some children may engage in behaviours to maintain their parents' attention, while others may keep an emotional distance as they've learnt not to trust their parents to meet their sensory needs. Children may vary between the two depending on their needs.

The short video below can help viewers to understand how sensory overload feels for our children. 

Below is a list of resources detailing the different sensory systems and giving more information on Sensory Attachment Intervention Theory. These documents outline some behaviours you may see in your child and explain the cause of those behaviours. 


A Child's View of Sensory Processing [YouTube] - A video showing sensory processing from a child's perspective

Understanding Sensory Processing [YouTube] - A video by Dr. Karyn Purvis explaining Sensory Processing

Helping Your Child Manage Their Sensory Needs [PDF] - A guide with activities and strategies to help your child to regulate

Sensory Processing and Trauma [PDF] - A guide to our 8 senses and how early trauma can impact our sensory development 

Sensory Attachment [PDF] - An article about the link between sensory processing and attachment by Éadaoin Breathnach in Adoption Today

Sensory Processing, Coordination and Attachment [PDF] - A Beacon House guide explaining how the brain processes sensory information and what Sensory Processing Disorder looks like

Sensory Information, Sensory Integration, and Strategic Functioning [PDF] - A paper from a 2018 conference about sensory processing and attachment

Beacon House Blog - Beacon House specializes in the needs of adopted children. Their blog has some useful posts about sensory needs

The Out of Sync Child - Book by Carol Stock Kranowitz

Sensational Kids - Book by Lucy Jane Miller

Can I Tell You About Sensory Processing Difficulties? - Book by Sue Allen

The Scared Gang - Book for children by Éadaoin Breathnach