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Sensory Seeker or Avoider

Children with Autism Spectrum disorder are often generalized as "not wanting to be touched" and shying away from loud places or stimulating environments. Because autism is spectrum, this is true for many of the children and they would be considered sensory avoiders. Bright lights, loud noises, itchy fabrics can all be constant issues for them. Their nervous system overreacts to a normal amount of input. Many entertainment venues are adding sensory rooms so that if a child is feeling overwhelmed during an event, they have a safe place to go and decompress. The Eagles and the Lincoln Financial Field stadium are a great example of this.


The other side of the spectrum would be those called sensory seekers. Their nervous

system does not register the same amount of input received and they require much more stimulation to achieve the same effect.

Ben has always been a sensory seeker. He walks and talks loudly, plays music at a very

high volume and was never bothered by wearing his shoes on the wrong feet!

This compared to his brother who would spend 10 minutes straightening his socks so the seams would not irritate him. (By the way, the answer to irritating socks is to wear them inside out! The seam is then against the shoe and not the skin)


Being a sensor seeker has had some positive results for Ben. He has a very high pain tolerance and never minded having blood drawn or injections when needed. It also supports his major passion of riding roller coasters. He once rode a looping coaster 11 times in a row without getting off! We say it is the only time we found his speech "off" button as he screamed so loud with joy during the rides that he lost his voice. We have often felt that amusement rides were a type of therapy for him as he required so much more input to satisfy is neuro system.


One of my favorite books is The Out of Sync Child, by Carol Kranowitz, which explores

how to recognize both sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors and strategies to help with sensory processing differences.

There are times when Ben is not aware of how loud he is and that can be a problem for others. We were recently at a special needs dance and a local group brought 2 miniature ponies to the event for the kids to enjoy. Near the end of the event they called the group of 50 together to take a photo and all were lined up quietly including the two beautiful horses right up front. As the photographer said "Every one say "Pizza", Ben erupted in a loud voice and super loud clapping, with his large man hands, that sounded like gunshots and spooked the horses. No harm done, but he felt bad realizing his enthusiasm caused some disruption.

I would encourage you to think about what camp you might fall into. Are you a sensory seeker or a sensory avoider. How does the camp you relate to affect your day to day life? Now crank it up to 10 and think about how that really would affect someone's life.

Love you more,


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