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How to Tame Your Sensory Seeker

Jun 22nd, 2018 | by NAPA Team

NAPA Team

June 22nd, 2018

Are you wondering if your child is a sensory seeker? Children who have sensory processing difficulties may move around a lot, which can get them into trouble. But the reason they never seem to slow down is because their bodies are telling them they need to move, move, move!

What is Sensory Input?

Essentially, sensory input describes anything that can be perceived using your senses! Sensory input describes the response in a sensory organ (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin) when it receives stimuli. The definition of sensory input is “the stimulation of a sense organ, causing a nerve impulse to travel to its appropriate destination in the brain or spinal cord.”

Sensory Seeking Behaviors in Toddlers and Children

Children have a variety of sensory needs! Some children can be more sensitive to certain sensory experiences, whereas other children have higher thresholds and require more sensory input to register the sensory information. Sensory seeking behaviors typically include poor balance, coordination, and awareness of their body in space. Kids with sensory challenges or a sensory seeking disorder may also have decreased awareness of vestibular and/or proprioceptive input.

To compensate for this, sensory seeking children will often seek out lots of sensory input to give their bodies more feedback to these systems.

They’ll do this by jumping, spinning, swinging, crashing, squishing and other movements. Other sensory seeking behaviors include trying to touch everything in their environment or running into/bumping into objects or people in their environment.

Understanding Your Sensory Seeking Toddler

Sensory processing is the way your body takes in sensory information from the world and interprets this information in the brain, to respond. Our bodies are constantly receiving sensory input, processing it, and adjusting our responses, without us even realizing it is happening! The way sensory input is perceived and responded to varies from child to child. Sometimes sensory information goes to the brain but there is difficulty in organizing it to produce the appropriate responses. 

Sensory Seeking Activities

Providing sensory-rich experiences is integral in helping your little one to make sense of and interact with the world around them. The sensory seeking activities listed below and in the video will help organize toddlers or children who are constantly wanting to move their bodies!

    1. Use an air cushion for movement while your child stays seated during school work
    2. Have your child perform work activities like pushing a shopping cart, carrying groceries, or pulling a wagon
    3. Encourage them to play on the playground on climbing equipment or by sliding or swinging
    4. Encourage them to swing or jump with consistent, rhythmic patterns (for calming linear input, place the child on a swing and swing them in a back-and-forth linear motion)
    5. Let them squish in big pillows for whole body sensory input (DIY sensory crash pad here!)
    6. Providing deep pressure by rolling a therapy ball along the child’s back

In this video below, NAPA occupational therapist Erin shares some sensory seeking activities to help organize our sensory seekers throughout the day.

An Overview of the Senses

Eyes and Ears and Mouth and Nose – from your head, shoulders to your knees and toes, most of us are familiar with the 5 senses:

    • Sight (visual system)
    • Hearing (auditory system)
    • Taste (gustatory system)
    • Smell (olfactory system)
    • Touch (tactile system)

But did you know we actually have two other systems!?

  • The vestibular sense is the ability to sense movement and balance. Sensors in the ear send feedback to the brain to tell us the direction and speed of movement at any point in time. The vestibular system works with the visual system to keep us upright and balanced when standing or moving.
  • Proprioception is the ability to know where our body is in space. Feedback from the muscles and joints helps us keep a good sense of position even when we’re not looking. If you were to close your eyes and have someone move your arm, you would know exactly what position it was in, even without looking. That’s your proprioceptive system at work!

Sensory Tools That You Can Use:

Additional Sensory Seeking Resources From NAPA Therapists:

About NAPA Center

At NAPA Center, we take an individualized approach to pediatric therapy because we understand that each child is unique with very specific needs. We embrace differences with an understanding that individualized programs work better. For this reason, no two therapeutic programs are alike. If your child needs services, we will work closely with you to select the best therapies for them, creating a customized program specific to your child’s needs and your family’s goals. Let your child’s journey begin today by contacting us to learn more.

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TAGS: Blogs, OT