Busy Bodies: Is it Sensory Seeking?

Guest Blogger Jana Maich, Occupational Therapist

In my experience as an occupational therapist working with children, sensory related concerns are some of the most common issues brought to me by parents. Sensory processing is complex, however, often there are simple home-based strategies that can be very helpful in meeting your child’s sensory needs. One of the most troubling sensory related concerns for parents is when their child is a “sensory seeker,” meaning they seem to be constantly looking for additional sensory input. In this blog post, I will be explaining what it means to be a “sensory seeker” and will provide information on how occupational therapists can help you to meet the needs of your child in order to keep him or her in a more regulated state throughout their day.

Sensory seekers are constantly “on the go” as they are attempting to obtain the sensory input that their bodies crave. They may run, crash, jump, mouth items, bounce, flip, spin, etc. to keep their bodies moving. This type of child has what we call a high sensory threshold (1). This means that in order to feel “regulated” and in an optimal state for attention and focus, they require much more intense sensory experiences than others. As a result, they are constantly on the lookout for such opportunities.

Occupational therapy works with children who struggle with sensory seeking by first identifying the types of sensory experiences your child is seeking, and second by helping to create more opportunities for sensory input throughout your child’s daily routines. When needed sensory input is provided naturally, these children are able to remain in a more regulated state, reducing the behavior.

If you are concerned that sensory seeking may be a problem for your child, an occupational therapy assessment can help to outline the behaviors, causes, and possible solutions. Our treatment would then involve specific activities and strategies tailored to your child’s needs. Additionally, these strategies will be modeled, monitored, and adjusted as needed during treatment sessions to help reduce them over time.

There are many activities that occupational therapists can suggest to support you in meeting the unique needs of your child. Everyday activities such as household chores, park visits, games and activities can be designed in ways that help provide needed sensory input. An occupational therapist will ensure to make the activities FUN and a part of the daily routine. The ultimate goal is to integrate activities that are enjoyable for your child naturally into their day, making “therapy” not seem so “therapy” and to ultimately benefit your child and other members in the family impacted by the behavior.

If you are concerned that your child is sensory seeking, and you would like some support and guidance to understand or reduce the behaviors, try occupational therapy.

1) Dunn, W. (1997). The impact of sensory processing abilities on the daily lives of young children and their families: a conceptual model. Infants and Young Children, 9(4), 23-35

2) Ayres, A.J. (2005). Sensory integration and the child. Understanding hidden sensory challenges. Los Angeles, CA: Western Psychological Service.