Sensory Difficulties vs Behavioural Issues

Understanding The Difference

Understanding the difference between Sensory Processing Difficulties (SPD) and behavioural issues in children can contribute to effective parenting, caregiving, and education. SPD refers to difficulties in how the brain receives, organises, and responds to sensory input, which can affect a child's experience of their environment as well as their reactions to it. On the other hand, behavioural issues encompass a range of mental and emotional disorders manifesting in behaviours that can be perceived as disruptive, uncooperative, or out-of-the-ordinary. Behavioural issues can be affected by cognitive maturity, exposure to emotional regulation training, or characteristics that could be formally diagnosed later in a child's life.

Understanding the differences between SPD and challenging behaviours is critical to provide the correct interventions, which can be quite different. For example, a child with SPD may benefit from occupational therapy, sensory integration activities, or modifications to their environment. A child with behavioural issues may respond well to behavioural therapy, changes in parenting strategies, or (in some cases) medication. Often, there will also be overlapping / co-existing of both SPD and behavioural issues, particularly when SPD is unidentified or unaddressed. In these cases, a combination of strategies and interventions will benefit the child greatly.

SPD refers to the brain's inability to accurately interpret sensory information from the surrounding environment. This can include sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, balance, and body position. Issues can arise when the brain struggles to organise and respond effectively to sensory input. A child with SPD might be overly sensitive to stimuli (hypersensitive), under-reactive (hyposensitive), or seek out sensory stimulation.

Sensory Processing Disorder Characteristics

Sensory avoidance

Sensory seeking

Sensory regulation issues

Speech/language delays

Poor attention span

Task avoidance

Impaired coordination

Illegible handwriting

Extremely high/low pain threshold

Excessive blinking/squinting & rubbing of eyes

Meltdowns/aggressive outbursts

Avoiding self grooming tasks



Low sense of self worth

Inability of feeling independent

On the other hand, behavioural issues are rooted more in the realm of psychology than neurobiology. They often emerge from a mix of factors including genetic, biochemical, and environmental influences. Conditions like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), or Conduct Disorder (CD) are examples of behavioural issues. These children may exhibit patterns of defiant, disobedient, or hostile behaviour towards adults or authority figures, hyperactivity, impulsivity, or difficulty maintaining attention.

Behavioural Issues Characteristics

Poor attention span/easily distracted

Rebellious/hostile behaviour

Attention seeking behaviour


Damaging/destroying property

Lying or stealing

Early smoking, drinking, drug use or sexual activity

Blaming others

Task avoidance

Running away from home/skipping school

Repetitive acts/compulsions


Feelings of sadness

Socially withdrawn/isolating themselves

Neglecting personal hygiene/appearance

Self-harm/threatening to hurt themselves

Low sense of self worth

Changes in appetite

Fluctuations in weight

Whilst you may notice an overlap of many characteristics, understanding the differences enables parents and caregivers to seek appropriate help and employ effective strategies at home; paving the way for improved communication, reduced frustration and, most importantly, the child's overall growth and development.

If you would like to learn more and equip yourself with the tools to address SPD and behavioural issues, we have a terrific 2-hour event taking place on the 1st of December, called: "Sensory Difficulties or Challenging Behaviours?". Continue reading below to discover why you should consider joining us!

Equipping Yourself with Knowledge and Strategies

It's essential for parents to be equipped with practical strategies they can apply in day-to-day interactions with their children. Shared by expert speakers, our upcoming event provides invaluable insights, tools, and techniques that can help transform challenging situations into opportunities for growth.

Arisse Gozon and Daniella Collicelli will draw on their wealth of experience to impart practical strategies and techniques that you can seamlessly incorporate into your daily routines. They will delve into topics such as effective communication, behaviour management, building resilience, and deliver tactics that are both evidence-based and easy to implement.

By attending our event, you'll gain insights into how you can effectively manage and navigate daily challenges, thus improving your child's quality of life. Whether it's understanding and preventing a meltdown at the supermarket or navigating the complexities of an individual support plan, these strategies will empower you to respond effectively and confidently. This is not just about managing behaviours but about enhancing interactions, fostering understanding, and stimulating your child's positive development. This knowledge is not just theoretical - it's hands-on, actionable, and aimed at making a real difference in your daily life.

The Power of Connection: Networking and Support

This event also serves as a platform for parents to connect, share experiences, and support each other. It's a chance to realise that you are not alone in your journey and there's a community ready to help.

Shared experiences and mutual understanding are powerful tools. By attending our event, you'll find yourself in a supportive environment filled with individuals who truly understand the challenges and triumphs you face. This is more than just an opportunity to learn - it's a chance to forge new connections, build a support network, and foster a sense of belonging.

An Open Invitation to Join Our Event

We warmly extend an invitation for you to join our transformative event. This is your opportunity to delve into understanding sensory and behavioural issues, equipping yourself with practical strategies that will not only help in managing daily challenges but also foster a healthier, more supportive environment for your child.

Our expert panel will provide you with the tools to turn challenges into opportunities for growth. This event is more than just a day on the calendar; it's an investment in your child's future and an opportunity to positively shape their development. By attending, you'll join a network of understanding and support, where your experiences are shared and valued.

Our Event

Sensory Difficulties or Challenging Behaviours?

Book your spot today and make a lasting impact on your family's future.

Mental Health Services

Please note, 8 Senses Therapy is not a 24/7 support service. If you or your child are in crisis, call one of the mental health helplines below:


13 11 14

Kids Helpline

1800 55 1800

Beyond Blue

1300 22 4636

If you feel that your or your child are at immediate risk of harm, please call triple zero (000).

Book In For Our Services

Fill out our simple contact form and we will get in touch with you as soon as possible.