Sensory seeking behavior is a common occurrence in many people, especially children. The goal of this article is to give parents ways they can use sensory materials to help their kids and also make them more comfortable with their own behaviors.
Sensory seeking behavior is a common issue in children with autism. It can be difficult to know how to treat the symptoms of sensory seeking behavior. Read more in detail here: sensory seeking symptoms.
It won’t take long for sensory seeking behaviors to come up in a discussion about autism with any parent, therapist, teacher, or other special education professionals. This group of answers may be among the most fascinating and unsettling for families as a whole. One of the first stages in learning how to manage sensory seeking behaviors is to acquire the abilities and resources to identify these behaviors in autism spectrum disorders.
What is the behavior of sensory seeking?
A broad range of behaviors that take place to satisfy a sensory requirement are referred to as sensory seeking behavior. People use sensory seeking to get information from their surroundings. The seeking habits of different sensory seekers vary. Some autistic children and adults exhibit several of these behaviors, while others show them sparingly or only under certain circumstances.
Why does sensory-seeking behavior occur?
Since the aim of sensory seeking activities is to get input from the environment, many different body regions may be involved. Sensory problems may be brought on by:
- body motions
Several instances include:
- body motions (e.g., hand-flapping, covering the ears, hair twirling)
- applying pressure or pressing on certain bodily parts
- Waving or putting things close to the eyes
- To protect the eyes from bright lights or patterns, cover them
- taking a bite out of clothes or items
- avoiding using lotions, air fresheners, or scents
- strong dislikes of certain food textures
These are but a few instances of sensory seeking, by no means a comprehensive list. It’s crucial to understand that all sensory seeking behaviors have a similar trait. Regardless of societal factors, they are probable. An instructional or social endeavor may induce a sensory seeking reaction. However, it could also take place completely alone.
Dunn’s Sensory Processing Model
Dunn’s Four Quadrant Model of Sensory Processing is among the most well-known models of sensory processing. The approach is based on behavioral and neurological thresholds. A neurological threshold for sensory inputs varies from low to high for each person. High neurological threshold sensory seekers may not be sensitive to normal amounts of sensory input and may miss cues. Those with a low neurological threshold have an easily triggered system that is responsive to sensory inputs.
Similar to emotional reaction, behavioral response likewise ranges from active to passive. Passive people may not take action to alter their surroundings (despite having an internal response). Those who are more active may attempt to regulate some of the sensory information they are exposed to. Of course, the sort of sensory input will have an impact on the behavioral reaction.
The quadrants of Dunn’s Four Quadrant Model of Sensory Processing are made up of these structures.
How are autism and sensory seeking related?
Many individuals are perplexed as to why sensory seeking behavior and autism seem to be related. Since 2013, a person must exhibit persistent repetitive or ritualistic activities in order for a medical expert to diagnose them with autism spectrum disorder. These actions often take the shape of sensory-seeking reactions. Although sensory seeking is not a must for all people with autism, many of them exhibit it at various times.
What about a disorder of sensory processing?
You could learn about Sensory Processing Disorder while you read about studies and recommendations for managing sensory seeking behaviors at home. Although not a recognized diagnosis by psychiatrists, psychologists, or other medical experts, SPD depicts problematic behavior and issues with over- and under-sensitivity to various environmental stimuli. Many parents of sensory seekers think that their child’s failure to adequately react to environmental sensory stimuli is the cause of the problem. Many of these kids also suffer from developmental issues like autism. Consult a specialist to have your kid evaluated and diagnosed if you think they could have autism or sensory processing disorders.
Do sensory-seeking behaviors need to be addressed or are they ‘bad’?
The topic of whether or not to treat sensory seeking behaviors is a topic of significant discussion in the autism and sensory processing disorder communities. Some supporters argue that these actions aid the sensory seeker in expressing themselves or satiating their environmental demands. Others consider these seeking habits to be unhealthy, particularly when they prevent people from learning or interacting socially. When a behavior becomes harmful, such as self-harm or pica, concerns also surface.
There are a range of diverse responses to the subject of whether to interfere with these behaviors, as there is with most things linked to autism. Better results are often obtained when treating sensory desire on an individual basis, whether at home, at a clinic, or at school. The choice should take into account:
- personal preferences
- the seriousness of the action
- the family’s principles
Home Treatment for Sensory Seeking Behaviors
Following are some methods to assist you choose the appropriate course of action if you determine that your child’s seeking behaviors are impeding their ability to learn and may need intervention:
- First, watch your youngster. Observing a child’s behavior is the first step in dealing with these habits at home. The development of a sensory-seeking behavior plan may be made easier by having a clear knowledge of when the sensory-seeking reactions are likely to occur, as well as triggers and supports. Parents should be prepared to respond to questions like these before starting treatment for sensory seeking:
- My youngster sometimes exhibits sensory-seeking behavior.
- Do my child’s activities serve to prevent sensory input from occurring or to seek out sensory feedback?
- Step two is to choose a target. Children with autism spectrum disorders exhibit a wide range of diverse sensory-seeking behavior characteristics. Every aim for managing these problems at home should be customized to the requirements of the specific child and family since no two kids are the same. After watching your kid, decide what behaviors you’d want to see changed in them. You may determine that sensory seeking may occur depending on issues such as safety, impact on others, interference with acquiring new abilities, and your family’s values:
- in a more suitable format
- sometimes but not always
- certainly not
- Decide on an intervention in step three. There are numerous ways to deal with the behavior if you’ve decided that your kid is needing assistance because they are looking for sensory stimulation. A few of them are:
- Make adjustments to the surroundings. It’s preferable to use a straightforward remedy if it helps your sensory seeker lessen their trigger to just lower the music or dim the lighting.
- Consider implementing a sensory diet or allowing frequent access to sensory-seeking activities in a more suitable or safe format.
- After learning activities, provide access to sensory activities in a “first…then” manner.
- Teach your kid to express their sensory requirements by asking for them instead of acting inappropriately.
- To assist a youngster comprehend when sensory input is accessible, create a visual timetable.
- Practice tiny, steady steps leading up to accepting more of the sensory input in disagreeable circumstances that cannot be altered.
- Step 4: Assess and make changes. Parents of sensory seekers often discover that their children’s behaviors alter with time, and sometimes quite quickly. As soon as a goal and intervention are accomplished, a new reaction or a slightly altered type of behavior emerges. Parents must continue to watch their child’s behavior and make dynamic adjustments in light of these continuing developments.
Activities to help a youngster who is sensory-seeking
You’ll definitely be on your toes if you have a sensory-seeking toddler or small kid! Here are some sensory-seeking exercises to keep kids busy as they explore their senses.
Play Tunnel is a well rounded activity that creates vestibular and proprioceptive input through:
Additionally, children may hone their large motor and fine motor abilities. A sensory-seeking child may be encouraged to transport objects from one end of the tunnel to the other by using it. For further sensory stimulation, they may also lie in it as an adult gently rolls them back and forth.
Paint Your Fingers
The great thing about Paint Your Fingers is that “paint” can be just about anything! Sand, rice, pudding…the options are endless. Depending on the needs of your sensory seeker, you could add a smell or taste component.
Finally, although while many families are successful in managing sensory-seeking behaviors at home, others may need professional assistance. Children’s sensory input needs are very complicated. Your kid with sensory processing issues may benefit from the guidance of a qualified expert (such an occupational therapist) with experience in sensory-related therapy.
Behavior Analysis in Applied Settings | Saint Cloud State University
Psychology Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) | University of Minnesota
rev. June 2022
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Sensory seeking behavior is common in children with autism. It is a condition where an individual craves sensation to the point of being overwhelming. Reference: sensory seeking behavior in adults.
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Janice is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Special Education. She also holds a Master of Science in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) from Queen’s University, Belfast. She has worked with and case managed children and youth with autism and other intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in home and residential setting since 2013.