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Sensory Seeking and Sensory Avoiding

Sensory processing refers to the way in which our brains interpret and respond to sensory information from our environment. For some people, this process can be disrupted, leading to sensory seeking or sensory avoiding behaviors.

Understanding Sensory Seeking and Sensory Avoiding

When it comes to sensory experiences, individuals may exhibit different preferences and responses. Two common patterns observed are sensory seeking and sensory avoiding. These patterns can be particularly relevant for individuals with autism, as they often have unique sensory processing characteristics.

What is Sensory Seeking?

Sensory seeking refers to a behavior where individuals actively seek out sensory stimuli or engage in repetitive sensory behaviors. They may have an intense desire for sensory input and engage in activities that provide strong sensory feedback. This can include seeking out activities like spinning, jumping, or touching various textures.

Some individuals with sensory seeking tendencies may have a higher threshold for sensory input, meaning they require stronger or more intense stimuli to experience the same sensory response as others. Others may seek sensory input as a way to self-regulate or to engage with their environment more fully.

What is Sensory Avoiding?

Sensory avoiding, on the other hand, involves the avoidance or withdrawal from sensory stimuli that are perceived as overwhelming or unpleasant. Individuals who exhibit sensory avoiding behaviors may become easily overwhelmed by certain sounds, textures, smells, or visual stimuli. They might actively avoid situations or environments that trigger these uncomfortable sensations.

Sensory avoiding behaviors can vary from person to person. Some individuals may cover their ears or close their eyes to block out certain stimuli, while others may limit their exposure to crowded places or bright lights. It's important to note that sensory avoiding behaviors can impact an individual's daily activities and social interactions.

How Does it Relate to Autism?

Sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors are particularly relevant in the context of autism. Many individuals on the autism spectrum have unique sensory processing profiles, which can involve both seeking and avoiding sensory experiences.

Some individuals with autism may exhibit sensory seeking behaviors as a way to self-stimulate or self-regulate. These behaviors can help them manage their sensory needs and provide a sense of comfort or control. On the other hand, sensory avoiding behaviors can be a response to an aversion or hypersensitivity to certain sensory stimuli.

Understanding an individual's sensory seeking and avoiding tendencies is crucial for developing effective interventions and support strategies. Sensory integration therapy is a valuable approach that can help individuals with autism navigate and regulate their responses to sensory stimuli.

By recognizing and addressing sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors, individuals with autism can better navigate their sensory experiences, leading to improved overall well-being and a better quality of life.

What is Sensory Integration Therapy?

Sensory Integration Therapy is an effective approach used to address challenges related to sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors. This therapy focuses on individuals who experience difficulties in processing and responding to sensory input in their environment. By understanding the overview of Sensory Integration Therapy and its goals and benefits, individuals can gain a better understanding of this therapeutic intervention.

Overview of Sensory Integration Therapy

Sensory Integration Therapy is a specialized form of therapy that aims to improve sensory processing and integration skills. It is commonly used for individuals with conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing disorder, and other neurodevelopmental disorders. The therapy is based on the understanding that the brain has the ability to adapt and reorganize itself, and sensory experiences play a crucial role in this process.

During Sensory Integration Therapy, a trained therapist works with the individual to create a controlled and structured environment. The therapist carefully designs activities that provide sensory input in a systematic and graded manner. These activities can include various sensory experiences, such as touch, movement, balance, and sound. By engaging in these activities, individuals gradually learn to process and respond to sensory information more effectively.

The therapy sessions are tailored to meet the specific needs of each individual. The therapist may use a combination of individual and group sessions, depending on the goals and preferences of the individual. The therapy is typically carried out in a sensory-rich environment that provides a wide range of sensory stimuli.

The Goals and Benefits of Sensory Integration Therapy

The primary goal of Sensory Integration Therapy is to help individuals develop more efficient sensory processing skills. By addressing sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors, the therapy aims to improve overall sensory integration and regulation, leading to better participation in daily activities and improved quality of life.

The therapy can have numerous benefits, including:

  • Enhancing self-regulation skills: Sensory Integration Therapy helps individuals develop better control over their responses to sensory input. By improving self-regulation, individuals can better manage their emotional and behavioral responses in various environments.
  • Improving motor coordination: Many individuals with sensory processing difficulties also struggle with motor coordination. Through activities that involve movement, balance, and coordination, Sensory Integration Therapy can help improve motor skills and coordination.
  • Increasing attention and focus: Sensory Integration Therapy provides individuals with opportunities to engage in purposeful and meaningful activities. By incorporating sensory input into these activities, the therapy can help individuals increase attention and focus.
  • Promoting social interaction: Group sessions in Sensory Integration Therapy provide individuals with opportunities to interact with others who may share similar sensory challenges. This can promote social skills, peer support, and a sense of belonging.
  • Enhancing overall sensory integration: By systematically exposing individuals to various sensory experiences, Sensory Integration Therapy helps the brain develop more efficient pathways for processing and integrating sensory information. This can result in improved sensory integration skills and a reduction in sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors.

Sensory Integration Therapy offers hope and support to individuals who experience challenges related to sensory processing. By engaging in this therapy, individuals can work towards achieving a better understanding of their sensory needs and develop strategies to thrive in their daily lives.

Techniques Used in Sensory Integration Therapy

Sensory Integration Therapy utilizes various techniques to help individuals with sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors. These techniques aim to provide controlled sensory experiences that promote self-regulation and improve sensory processing. Here are some commonly used techniques in Sensory Integration Therapy:

Deep Pressure Therapy

Deep pressure therapy involves the application of firm, consistent pressure to the body. This technique can be administered through techniques such as deep pressure touch, weighted blankets, or compression garments. Deep pressure therapy provides a calming effect and can help individuals regulate their sensory systems. It is particularly beneficial for individuals who experience sensory seeking behaviors.

Vestibular Stimulation

Vestibular stimulation focuses on activating the vestibular system, which is responsible for balance and spatial orientation. This technique involves controlled movements that stimulate the vestibular system, such as swinging, spinning, or rocking. Vestibular stimulation can help individuals improve their balance, coordination, and body awareness. It is especially effective for individuals who exhibit sensory seeking behaviors.

Proprioceptive Input

Proprioceptive input involves engaging the muscles and joints to provide deep sensory feedback. This technique can be achieved through activities that involve pushing, pulling, lifting, or squeezing. Proprioceptive input helps individuals develop body awareness and improve their sense of position and movement. It can be beneficial for individuals who experience sensory seeking behaviors.

Visual and Auditory Sensory Activities

Visual and auditory sensory activities are designed to engage and regulate the visual and auditory senses. These activities can include listening to calming music, watching visually stimulating videos, or participating in art therapy. Visual and auditory sensory activities help individuals process sensory information and develop coping strategies for sensory overload. They can be effective for individuals who exhibit sensory avoiding behaviors.

In Sensory Integration Therapy, a combination of these techniques is often employed to create personalized treatment plans based on individual needs and goals. Each technique plays a crucial role in addressing sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors, allowing individuals to thrive and achieve a better quality of life.

Sensory Integration Therapy and Autism

Sensory integration therapy has shown promising results in helping individuals with autism improve their sensory processing abilities. This section will delve into how sensory integration therapy can benefit individuals with autism and provide insights from success stories and testimonials.

How Sensory Integration Therapy Helps Individuals with Autism

Sensory integration therapy is designed to address the unique sensory challenges faced by individuals with autism. It focuses on providing a structured and controlled environment where individuals can engage in sensory experiences that help them regulate and integrate sensory information more effectively.

One of the main goals of sensory integration therapy is to improve sensory processing skills. By engaging individuals in a variety of sensory activities, such as swinging, jumping, or playing with textured materials, therapists aim to help them better understand and interpret sensory input. This can lead to improved attention, self-regulation, and overall functioning.

Sensory integration therapy can also help individuals with autism develop appropriate responses to sensory stimuli. It provides opportunities for them to explore and interact with different textures, sounds, and movements in a safe and supportive environment. Through repetitive and structured activities, individuals can learn to adapt and respond appropriately to sensory input, reducing sensory seeking or avoiding behaviors.

Success Stories and Testimonials

Numerous success stories and testimonials from individuals who have undergone sensory integration therapy highlight the positive impact it can have on their lives. Many individuals report improvements in their sensory processing abilities, leading to increased comfort and better engagement with their surroundings.

For example, Sarah, a young girl with autism, struggled with sensory sensitivity and would often become overwhelmed in noisy and crowded environments. After participating in sensory integration therapy, Sarah's parents noticed a significant reduction in her sensory sensitivity. She became more tolerant of different sounds and textures, allowing her to enjoy outings and social interactions that were once challenging for her.

Another success story is Mark, a teenager with autism who had difficulty with motor coordination and balance. Through sensory integration therapy, Mark engaged in activities that targeted vestibular stimulation and proprioceptive input. Over time, he developed improved balance and coordination, allowing him to participate in sports and physical activities with greater confidence and enjoyment.

These success stories and testimonials provide encouraging evidence of the positive impact of sensory integration therapy on individuals with autism. However, it's important to note that the effectiveness of therapy may vary for each individual. It's always recommended to consult with a qualified therapist to determine the suitability of sensory integration therapy for a specific individual.

In the next section, we will explore the considerations involved in finding the right sensory integration therapist, including qualifications, certifications, and cost considerations.

Finding the Right Sensory Integration Therapist

When seeking sensory integration therapy, it is essential to find a qualified therapist who can provide the necessary support and guidance. The right therapist can make a significant difference in the success of the therapy. Here are some key considerations when looking for a sensory integration therapist.

Qualifications and Certifications to Look For

When evaluating potential therapists, it is important to consider their qualifications and certifications. Look for therapists who have completed training and certification programs specifically in sensory integration therapy. Some certifications to look for include:

  • Certified Occupational Therapist (OT): Occupational therapists specializing in sensory integration therapy have in-depth knowledge and expertise in addressing sensory needs.
  • Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT) Certification: Therapists who are certified to administer the SIPT have undergone extensive training in assessing and interpreting sensory integration difficulties.

Additionally, it is beneficial to seek therapists who have experience working with individuals with autism and sensory processing difficulties. They should have a comprehensive understanding of sensory seeking behaviors and sensory avoiding behaviors.

Questions to Ask When Choosing a Therapist

To ensure that you find the right sensory integration therapist, it is essential to ask relevant questions during the selection process. Consider asking the following questions:

  1. What is your experience working with individuals with autism and sensory processing difficulties?: This question will help you gauge the therapist's familiarity with the specific challenges faced by individuals on the autism spectrum.
  2. What is your approach to sensory integration therapy?: Understanding the therapist's approach will give you insight into their treatment philosophy and methods.
  3. How do you customize therapy for each individual?: Personalized therapy is crucial for addressing the unique sensory needs of individuals with autism. Ensure that the therapist can tailor the therapy to suit specific requirements.
  4. What is the expected duration and frequency of therapy?: Knowing the expected duration and frequency of therapy sessions will help you plan accordingly and set realistic expectations.

Cost and Insurance Coverage Considerations

Before committing to sensory integration therapy, it is important to consider the cost and insurance coverage. Sensory integration therapy sessions can vary in cost, depending on factors such as location, therapist experience, and session duration. It is advisable to contact the therapist's office or clinic to inquire about the specific costs involved.

Additionally, check with your health insurance provider to determine if sensory integration therapy is covered by your plan. Some insurance companies may cover therapy sessions partially or in full, depending on the policy. Understanding the coverage and potential out-of-pocket expenses will help you make informed decisions.

Finding the right sensory integration therapist requires careful consideration of their qualifications, experience, and approach. By asking relevant questions and considering the financial aspects, you can ensure that you choose a therapist who can effectively support you or your loved one on the journey towards a brighter future.


Sensory seeking and sensory avoiding are common experiences that can be related to a variety of conditions. By understanding these behaviors and developing effective coping strategies, individuals can learn to better manage their sensory processing difficulties and participate more fully in their environments.


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