Learn how to identify sensory seeking symptoms, a subtype of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), that results in craving stimulation. Children with sensory modulation disorder, a category of SPD, may show signs of overresponsivity, underresponsivity or seeking of environmental stimuli.
You may notice a child with symptoms has had problems sleeping since he/she was a baby. This can be contributed to poor self regulation from SPD. Naps may be unusually long or non-existent even if he/she is exhausted. Sleep difficulties do not necessarily indicate a Sensory Modulation Disorder, but often occur when a child does have SPD.
There may also be difficulties getting a child to focus on tasks or keep their hands from touching things that other children learn not to touch. Constant movement and excessive talking are also most likely very prominent. This is often what can lead to an ADHD misdiagnosis.
My son is one of the biggest sensory seekers you would ever meet, which we thought was just typical boy behavior at first. However, when it got to the point of interfering with daily functioning, we knew there was something more going on.
With an occupational therapist's help we have really gotten a handle on some of his challenges that come with having SPD. Life has been so much easier since!
Other symptoms include(1):
• Splashing in mud, seeking dirty types of play
• Dumping toy bins rummaging through them aimlessly
• Chewing on inedible objects or shirt collar
• Rubbing against walls or furniture and bumping into people
• Loves spinning in circles, amusement rides, and is constantly moving
• Fidgets, has difficulty sitting still and takes bold risks
• Frequently wants bear hugs and vigorous playground activities
• Seeks visually stimulating screens, shiny objects, strobe lights, or sunlight – may want to watch endless TV or constantly play video games
• Loves loud noises, TV or music volume, crowds and places with lots of action
• Problems sleeping
• Enjoys strong odors, even unattractive ones
• May lick or taste inedible objects and prefers spicy or hot foods
• Frequently attempt to engage in rough play, such as wrestling
With all of the different disorders that exist these days, it can be hard to determine whether or not your child may just be going through a phase or actually have problems processing information. Especially, with many of the symptoms being very similar to ADHD symptoms, Autism, or even Asperger Syndrome.
Getting your child evaluated by a wide array of professionals can be the first step in getting feedback about your child’s behavior and accurately portraying any possible sensory seeking symptoms. You may have your child evaluated by a pediatrician, occupational therapist, speech therapist, and/or developmental therapist. The good news is that we are constantly learning new information about the nervous system and how it affects behavior in order to properly recognize sensory processing disorders.
Sensory Seeking Treatment
After my son was evaluated by an occupational therapist that concluded he has SPD sub-type sensory seeking, we have explored a few SPD treatment options. These included putting him on a sensory diet, doing therapeutic listening and the wilbarger brushing protocol. Finally understanding some of the differences we had noticed in him, compared to other children his age, has been a huge blessing and relief.
All helped immensely with his sleep patterns, language processing, and activity levels. He is doing much better in school doing work independently, following directions, and demonstrating much more controlled fine motor skills. Currently, we only have to make sure to limit artificial food coloring (neurotoxin), such as red dye 40 in his diet due to it's effect on the nervous system, and to provide him with enough physical activity each day while limiting overstimulating activities (TV, computer etc.).
If you do suspect SPD, it is important to have your child evaluated by a professional with experience directly related to SPD or they may not notice or understand the disorder.
1. Kranowitz, C. S. (2005). The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorders. New York, NY: Penguin Group.
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