Is Your Child a Sensory Seeker or a Sensory Avoider?

Understanding sensory integration issues in kids.

Sensory integration is the key to a happy and healthy nervous system. In children, when nervous systems aren't functioning properly, we often see anxiety, poor frustration tolerance, poor coping mechanisms, behavior overreactions, endless battles and tantrums over the smallest issue, fear of new activities, and poor safety awareness amongst many more.

There are many things to look out for if you believe your child may have difficulty interpreting and processing sensory information. 

Sensory Seekers

Some signs of sensory seekers include but are not limited to: 

  • always on the go,
  • often making noises,
  • chews on clothes or other non-food objects,
  • difficulty sitting still,
  • enjoys rough housing,
  • seems to touch everything. 

Sensory Avoiders

Some signs of sensory avoiders include but are not limited to: 

  • prefers loose fitting clothes and
  • dark/dim lighting,
  • avoids engaging in messy activities or getting dirty,
  • difficulty eating certain food textures,
  • picky eater, avoiding physical comfort or affection,
  • difficulty wearing clothing or getting dressed,
  • avoids novel tasks or the playground,
  • overwhelmed by loud sounds.

It’s also important to note you can have both seeking and avoiding behaviors present.

The key to assisting your child with sensory integration difficulties is to make them feel more comfortable in their body and develop strategies to help them navigate through life with sensory experiences constantly around us. Oftentimes it is best to see a trained occupational therapist with sensory integration specialty training to further assess what would best help your child.

Carissa L Jannicelli Pampanin, MS, OTR/L, SIPT is a children's occupational therapist in Cedar Grove, NJ.