Often people strive to understand what exactly the difference is between sensory seeking and sensory sensitive. Basically there are two ways in which people with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) respond. When people under react to sensory input, they may seek out more input. However when people overreact, they become easily overwhelmed and may seek out methods in which avoid the input.
Our brains constantly take in information, and for a majority of the population that information isn’t a problem, however for some children and adults, a stream of input can become quite a struggle for those with sensory processing disorder.
What are the types of Sensory input?
When we think of the term ‘sensory input’ we often refer to the commonly known five senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch. However, there are an additional two senses that can affect people with sensory processing issues.
One of them is the ability to sense body movement, position and balance. This is called proprioception. Sensory Seeking people might give people tight hugs or crash into things in order to feel pressure and physical contact. However, on the flipside, Sensory Sensitive will avoid this and try to get themselves away from those sensations.
The other sense is affiliated with spatial orientation – or knowing where your body is “in space”. In this essence, sensory seekers might rock back and forth, spin, swing or jump from heights. Sensory Sensitive people tend to be much more physically cautious.
What is Sensory Seeking?
Most sensory seekers are under sensitive and tend to look for more stimulation. Kids and people who sensory seek may appear to look clumsy, appear to be too loud or seem to have ‘behaviour issues”.
Some traits of sensory seekers may be:
- Standing to close to others when talking
- Walk with loud, heavy steps
- Have an unusual tolerance to pain
- Jump, hop or crash into things, sometimes to the point of being unsafe
- Prefer ‘rough play’ in social environments
- Touch objects and people often
- Seek out and make loud noises
- Chew on clothing, collars, sleeves and other non-food items
What is Sensory Sensitive?
Most sensory sensitive people (also known as sensory avoiding) are over sensitive. They experience sensory input much more intensely than the average person and generally try to avoid it as it’s too overwhelming.
Some traits of sensory sensitive may be:
- Not like receiving affection, like hugging or kissing even by family
- Be frightened by unexpected sounds or bright lights
- Get anxious about being bumped in line or touched by other kids whilst playing
- Hear background noses other people are unable to detect
- Dislike to wear scratchy, tight or uncomfortable clothing
- Be hesitant of swings and other playground equipment
- Prefer a quieter environment and have a dislike of crowds
Combination of Sensory Traits
Not all people are clearly defined as sensory seekers or avoiders and some people show a combination of different traits. Learning what your child’s triggers and reactions are to different environments can enable pathways for better communication and management of meltdowns. Sensory processing issues should only be diagnosed by a qualified professional (eg occupational therapist or physical therapist) that can provide a support system for helping your child to cope with visual, taste, tactile and noise sensitivity on a day to day basis.
Support Tools for Sensory Processing Disorder
There is a broad selection of sensory tools (also known as sensory toys) available that can help to support both sensory seekers and sensory avoiders. These can include fidget toys, oral support products, weighted items, visual and audio sensory products and much more. To view the full range of products available, visit Sensory Store.