Extraordinary Links

The Sensory Child

Have you ever wondered why your child cannot sit still, or why they can’t stand labels in their clothes, or even why do they keep jumping on my bed! All children, even neurotypical children, go through either being a Sensory Seeker or a Sensory Avoider (sometimes both!) I thought it would be helpful to go through the terminology and offer some hints and tips that you may find helpful.

You may be aware of the five typical senses, taste, sight, smell, touch, hearing. There are a few bit of terminology that may need explaining if, like B, you find your child displaying sensory seeking or sensory avoiding behaviour. The two senses you may not have heard of are proprioception and spatial orientation. Proprioception is our ability to sense body movement, position and balance. A good example is B’s need for tight bear hugs, he loves being squeezed, his sister is not such a fan. In fact, we had to create a social story to explain why she didn’t like bear hugs!

Spatial Orientation is knowing where your body is in space in relation too other people. It is a key skill for writing and reading, also useful for when the child is older and wants to drive! If your child seeks this input, they may stand on tiptoes, rock, jump up and down spin on the spot, even hang upside down off a sofa! If they avoid this, they will probably be more cautious and wary of physical activity. First of all, I would like to say, there is no need to stop the behaviour unless it is harmful! We all have our own little quirks, I, for instance, hate shoes and socks. If it was deemed socially acceptable (and I could drive my car whilst doing it) I would never wear them! But how can you tell what sensory profile your child has? I created a diagram to show what types of behaviour you might be familiar with, to help you decide whether you have a Seeker or Avoider.

If you would like to have an in-depth look at your child’s (or your own) sensory profile, Glasgow NHS trust has a fabulous sensory questionnaire. Many children need a varied sensory diet, and many children can cope with this. If you feel your child needs more help an Occupational Therapist may be the answer to your child’s different sensory profile. You can see more about Occupational Therapists here.Trafford NHS produced this to help with Occupational Therapy. Just remember, if your child is distress if you try any of the ideas in the pack, please stop. There is a fine line between help and hindrance of your child development. It may be that your child is just not ready! We don’t endorse ABA (Applied Behavioural Analysis) at Extraordinary Links, for many reasons. Please research any occupational therapist you visit, and if you and your child feel uncomfortable, just tell the therapist.

Just remember, in some areas your child maybe both. B loves hand-dryers, his sister hates them with a passion. She screams if she hears them. They both hate fire-alarms and supermarket tannoys though. I have never been so happy about home deliveries!