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What Is Sensory-Seeking Behavior?

Written on . Posted in ADHD, Autism, Multisensory, Sensory Processing Disorder, Sensory Tips

Sensory-seeking behavior is common in those with sensory processing disorders. While it’s usually harmless, there are instances where sensory-seeking can become more extreme and even potentially violent, so it’s important to channel that energy.

In this post, we’ll be looking at what a sensory seeker is and how to encourage safe sensory stimulation and proprioceptive sensory-seeking behaviors. 

What Is a Sensory Seeker?

A ‘sensory seeker’ is the name given to a person, often a child, who craves lots of sensory stimulation and will attempt to meet that need however they can. You can learn about the benefits of sensory stimulation on our blog.

Stimming is one way that sensory seekers might attempt to fulfill that craving themselves, such as by flapping their hands, making noises they enjoy or clapping.

Sensory Avoidance

When people think of sensory processing disorders, they are often more familiar with sensory avoidance or hypersensitivity, where the individual can become more easily overwhelmed by sensory stimulation and will try to avoid that where possible. 

It’s important to be aware that people with sensory processing disorders may experience both sensory-seeking behavior and sensory avoidance, and their preferences may change over time.

Examples of Sensory-Seeking Behavior 

  • Clapping hands and stamping feet
  • Throwing themselves down onto the ground 
  • Standing very close to other people
  • Chewing on clothing or other non-edible items
  • Spinning around, jumping or crawling movements
  • Fixation on screen time – TVs, tablets or phones


Encouraging Safe Sensory-Seeking Behavior

In order to avoid dangerous or harmful sensory-seeking behaviors, try channeling that craving into a more structured outlet. The most important step is to learn what the individual is seeking, and what they are avoiding – for example, a child with autism might dislike being touched by other people, but enjoy pushing their hands into mud. Take it slow and let them guide you in what helps them and what is unpleasant or triggering.

  1. Providing opportunities for structured sensory stimulation

There are endless ways to engage with what a sensory seeker is craving! Some of our favorite things to do include:

  1. Creating a superactive sensory room

Our superactive sensory room package includes a variety of products that use colors, sounds, textures and movement to stimulate the senses, including a sensory projector bundle, superactive bubble tube and bean bag chair.

If an individual doesn’t have access to a sensory room at home or school, a sensory corner can be a great space-saving alternative.

  1. Being prepared with sensory products on the go

Fulfilling sensory input at home is one thing, but doing it in public can be much more difficult, and that’s where portable sensory products come in. The Perfect Petzzz range is ideal for hugging and holding, and chewelry can help with the impulse to bite or chew. Headphones can provide music or sounds while blocking out potentially overwhelming sounds in the area (for children, this sound must be monitored to ensure it is not at dangerous levels). 

If you’re interested in having a collection of portable sensory products, check out our sensory backpack, which comes with a real variety of portable toys and tech to keep users engaged.

  1. Considering the sensory side of daily activities

While focused activities are great for development and comfort, it can be just as beneficial for an individual’s sensory diet to engage with sensory elements of daily life, particularly with children. 

  • You might encourage them to try ingredients and taste-test as you cook meals, or let them push the cart at the grocery store. 
  • Alternative seating, such as wobble stools, bean bags and vibro-cushions for kids and teens can also make staying in one place easier for sensory seekers, such as at school or in waiting rooms
  • While you do work in the yard, let your child roll around in the grass or put their hands in the dirt. A bath is a small price to pay for sensory fun!


Proprioceptive Sensory Seeking 

Meeting visual and auditory sensory needs can be much simpler than proprioceptive, which refers to the body’s sense of place in the world. 

Some examples of proprioceptive sensory-seeking behavior might be clapping, writing with heavy pressure (even to the point of ripping the page), enjoying falling, running and jumping and swinging on desks.

To focus this energy, try deep pressure therapy and movement that employs the muscles and joints.

Examples include:

  • Lifting heavy items (appropriate to the individual)
  • Weighted blankets or vests
  • Pushing and pulling items across a room
  • Bear hugs
  • Jumping on a trampoline or into a pool
  • Body socks

So now you know a bit more about sensory-seeking behaviors and what a sensory seeker is. If you would like to learn more about sensory processing disorders, please take a look at our blog. If you would like to create your own sensory room, check out our free sensory room design service or contact us to learn more.

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