Sensory-seeking? - Mothering Forums
Special Needs Parenting > Sensory-seeking?
Collinsky's Avatar Collinsky 07:17 PM 09-25-2008
Can someone tell me more about sensory-seeking toddlers? What would one look for? What are signs that that might be what's going on, and what would kind of rule it out and point in another direction?

I basically am looking for initial information for a friend, and so I'm unable to share much detail about the specific situation. Just a starting place, or personal experience with a sensory seeking toddler would be awesome!

thewaggonerfamily's Avatar thewaggonerfamily 07:36 PM 09-25-2008
Can't type now, be back later. PM me to remind me if I forget.
acannon's Avatar acannon 07:54 PM 09-25-2008
There are a lot of signs to look for, mainly because there are seven senses that can be stimulated. There are the five you usually think of and there's also vestibular (balance and spatial orientation) and proprioceptive (the relative position of neighboring parts of the body). Some stereotypically autistic behaviors (known as stims) are signs; hitting or banging one's head, spinning self or objects, hand flapping, jumping up and down, etc. Some kids who are sensory seeking are on the spectrum and some aren't, so these behaviors don't necessarily mean that the child is on the spectrum.

Also, just because the child is sensory-seeking in one area doesn't mean that he'll be sensory-seeking in all areas. People can be both sensory seekers and sensory avoiders. It also changes with the amount of sensory input a person gets. One kid might love to spin when he controls how fast he goes and how long he spins for, but put him on a spinning amusement park ride and he won't want anything to do with it. It might even make him sick.

Kids who are sensory seekers tend to be the kids who are loud, energetic, and rowdy. Most like jumping off of furniture and crashing onto other furniture. They're typically the kids who are extroverted, always on the go, love to roughhouse, stuff like that. I don't know if I can give you The Signs that This Child is a Sensory Seeker, KWIM? Like most matters of the brain, it isn't as cut and dried as most people would like it to be. All sensory seeking kids are different from each other and not many children are textbook cases. HTH.
cherylinbuffalo's Avatar cherylinbuffalo 10:42 PM 09-25-2008
My daughter is very sensory seeking. She can get pretty wild.....climbs on everything and jumps off head first...constantly has to be touching something, rubbing her feet on something, squeezing something.....She can at times be aggressive, but it is really just her seeking out what she needs again...not meaning to be hurting anyone. She also LOVES swings, rough play, heavy tickles.....
momtoS's Avatar momtoS 11:54 PM 09-25-2008
Okay I would consider my daughter sensory seeking. She is not and never has been a good sleeper, or eater. She is VERY busy. She has PICA and is constantly eating non food items. She likes to squish stuff (mud, playdoh, food etc), she likes painting (and paints herself), she did play in poop alot (painting in it), likes jumping, swinging, she doesn't respond to pain as much as her peers do, has a hard time sitting down, hates getting her hair brushed, etc (those are just a few....)
elmh23's Avatar elmh23 12:13 AM 09-26-2008
My 19mo is a sensory seeker and sensory avoider. Here's a list of things I can think of right now:


throws himself off of various things

is very much a climber!

doesn't respond to pain in an appropriate way (example: fell off a picnic table head first on to concrete, huge bruise!, he cried for a minute)

is a mouth stuffer and prefers crunchy foods or foods that he can spoon like yogurt cause then he just chews on the spoon for a bit

is a spinner

loves gooey things like mud and paint

the best game to him is to pull on my shoulders, moving me backwards on to him. even better if we're on a tile floor.

loves really tight hugs

loves a toothbrush in his mouth as long as he's in control (when I do it, he tantrums.)


can't deal with loud noises like the vaccum, blender, a plane flying low overhead (and we live near an airport and air force base.)

can't deal with dried mud on his hands

if it gets to "busy" for him, he needs to close himself away. it's rare but it does happen.

does not like blankets on him and will wake if you put any on him

My son has a speech delay. He can't figure out that whole mouth thing but is getting better with speech therapy and occupational therapy (to address his sensory stuff.)
sbgrace's Avatar sbgrace 12:23 AM 09-26-2008
It would really vary depending on the child. But kids that are sensory seeking in a certain area will basically do lots of things to get input in that area. They aren't getting the input someone without sensory issues in that area is getting. So a child who is hypersensitive to touch might find a haircut painful while a child who is hyponsensitive might bite himself. The hyposensitive kiddo is a seeker of input. As acannon explained you can be a seeker and avoider as well.

But my child was (among other areas) a proprioceptive sensory seeker. That means he seeks input about his body in space. He crawled with his head down on the ground, he constantly wanted tight hugs, he was a head banger, he would jam himself into any tight space he could find, he loved swaddling as in infant, he would hug us really tight and then bite--the biting was to get more input in his jaw, was constantly crashing into people, loves wrestling, stuff like that. Sometimes stuff looks weird with sensory seeking kids...I mean my son would ask you to hurt him! Someone might wonder about that....but he is simply trying to communicate that he needs proprioceptive input. So I offer a good squeeze. He often asks someone for a more "ouchy hug" when they hug him. He means of course he wants a tighter hug.

I mentioned all that because proprioceptive seekers are pretty common it seems and its a hard one to understand and when I look at lists a lot of what my son does isn't on them!

Here is a link with lists of sensory processing signs. The seeking stuff would be the hypo categories.
Collinsky's Avatar Collinsky 12:37 AM 09-26-2008
Gosh, I was asking for someone else, but keep thinking about my 2yo through some of these examples! I suppose that's natural.

Thank you so much for all the info that's been offered so far, I know it was a very open-ended question - the answers have been helpful!
Momily's Avatar Momily 12:58 AM 09-26-2008

I think it's helpful to realize that all of these things are a continuum, and everyone, whether or not they have SN falls somewhere on the continuum. When I take my 9 year old for sushi, and he spreads the wasabi over his fish like it's butter, and pops it in his mouth, that's sensory seeking. When we go to Six Flags and I sit on the bench while he's riding some crazy upside down thing I'm sensory avoiding.

Often when people talk about "sensory seeking" they're talking about kids for whom either the sensory seeking gets in the way, or the behavior they exhibit when they aren't getting enough sensory gets in the way, but in reality all of us have sensory based behaviors, they just aren't always as intense.