Sensory Seeking and Aversion Explained

Sensory Seeking and Aversion Explained

Where did that energy come from?? Can I please have some of the energy radiating from my child?

I noticed a number of restaurant staff watching me as our youngest was pushing me in my chair, arm wrestling with me and headbutting me (in a playful way). This is what happens when he is tired, overwhelmed, or excited.

Earlier in the day, I was getting very annoyed with this behaviour. Then I took the time to figure out what was going on…

He is the type of kiddo that seeks out contact. Deep pressure is his friend. Sometimes he has no idea that he is pushing me. I have to tell him that he is pushing me. I will give him a big hug and then he does not have to be attached.

There are some days that I feel like he is an added limb. This is usually when he is excited or worried about something. His big brother is moving out this weekend. I did suspect he would struggle with this big transition.

This type of behaviour is often labeled as Sensory Seeking.

One of his favourite activities to do when he is feeling a great deal of need to sensory seek is to build and climb into forts. Our basement is easily converted to Fort McSween!

The opposite of Sensory Seeking is Sensory Adverse. Children can easily go from one state to another very quickly.

Sensory Adverse behaviour can be refusing to go somewhere with loud noises, refusing hugs, not liking smells, picky eating and many other behaviours.

Our little man gets very sensory adverse in new situations. So he will cover his ears or plug his nose. We let him put up his hood or wear noise-canceling headphones when he wants.

If your child is displaying these behaviours it does not always mean that it is a problem. All humans will go through stages of being sensory seeking and sensory adverse.

 
What can you do if your child is constantly sensory seeking or needing help to calm as he/she seems like a wild child?

 

If your child is sensory seeking, lead him or her towards active activities. Lots of climbing, jumping, sensory play, pushing, pulling and being squeezed.

You can also get your child to carry heavy things. This input can be calming.

How can you get your toddler doing this type of activity? Ask them to help!! Our son loved to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer. He also loved (still loves) to wear a backpack with lots of items in it around the house so I would fill up his backpack and ask him to carry it upstairs or downstairs.

 
What can you do if your child seems adverse to everything?

 

If your child is sensory adverse understand that he/she may refuse to eat certain foods and want to do quiet activities like reading, colouring, and sit close to you but not snuggle. Provide your child with the space to get comfortable with a new place or sounds. Then understand that certain clothing or foods can be very irritating, don’t push it. You will discover the different things that your child enjoys.

One of our son’s favourite things to do when he is feeling averse to things is to wear a tight-fitting hoodie.

 

Now here is where things can get confusing! Your child can go from sensory seeking to being sensory adverse very quickly!! It can also depend on the individual sensory system. For example, our son often seeks outs things that involve jumping, pushing and pulling but is adverse to various touches and sounds.

For more specific information related to your child please feel free to send me a private message or e-mail so we can address your specific situation.