Talkative's Occupational Therapist, Abbey Douglass, defines, explains and provides tips on how to help with Sensory Seeking, Sensory Avoiding and the Proprioceptive System.

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What may sensory seeking behaviours look like?

A child may underreact to sensory input= seek out more input.

  • Biting/chewing on objects or clothes
  • Stopping feet when walking
  • Make loud noises
  • Hyperextension of joints
  • Holding objects with excessive pressure (eg. Tight pencil grip)
  • Enjoys rough play and impact to their body
  • Walks on tips toes

 

What may sensory avoiding behaviours look like?

A child may overreact to sensory input= overwhelmed and may avoid the input.

  • Picky eating
  • Avoid physical contact (eg. hugging)
  • Startled by unexpected sounds or light
  • Avoid different textured clothing (eg. “itchy” or tight clothing)
  • Has trouble knowing where their body is in relation to other people or objects

 

Types of sensory input:

  • Sight
  • Smell
  • Sound
  • Taste
  • Touch

 

What is the Proprioceptive System?

  • The proprioceptive system is located in our muscles and joints.
  • It provides us with body awareness and senses and controls the pressure and force of our body.
  • This system is important for our sensory processing and responding to sensory stimuli.

 

How does the Proprioceptive system impact my child?

  • It can be very calming for those who are sensitive to sensory stimulation (Children who show behaviours of sensory avoiding).
  • It can help increase attention and alertness for those who are seeking sensory stimulation. (Children who show behaviours of sensory seeking).
  • Proprioceptive input can help a child to regulate their emotional and behavioural responses to external sensory stimulation.

 

Proprioceptive activities to try at home or in the classroom:

  • Heavy work/ deep pressure to the body (jumping, crawling, rolling, pushing, pulling, hugging)
  • Weighted blanket (to apply pressure to the body during activities to increase alertness or to calm behaviour and emotion)
  • Lifting/ carrying objects (eg. Carrying the watering can to water plants, moving furniture, carrying the groceries)
  • Increasing breathing rate (running, jumping on the trampoline, swinging)
  • Oral motor activities (chewing, blowing bubbles, sucking from a straw)

 

Key points:

  • Sensory avoiders are oversensitive to sensory input.
  • Sensory seekers are under sensitive to sensory input.
  • Some kids may show a combination over sensory avoiding and seeking behaviours.
  • Identify your child’s triggers and some enjoyable, and engaging activities to support them – your OT can help you find ways to support your child!

 

 

Reference:

  • Middletown Centre for Autism. Proprioceptive. Middletown: Sensory Processing Resource, 2019.

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Posted by Abbey Douglass
Occupational Therapist
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