Sensory Seeking Kiddos

Sensory seeking in children is when a child has a high neurological threshold or a big sensory bucket that needs to be filled with sensory input. The child may be under responsive and that makes them want to seek out higher stimulating sensory input so that they can fill up their sensory bucket. Sensory seeking kids are often misunderstood or misdiagnosed, and it is important to advocate for them to help them get the help they need. Sensory processing disorder is commonly occurring with autism and can sometimes present as ADHD when in fact it is not their poorly functioning nervous system but a sensory processing obstacle.

“Children who are sensory seekers display extreme over arousal with constant movement. They are in your face and in your space.” – Lucy Miller

Sensory input can be tactile, auditory, visual, proprioceptive, vestibular, and olfactory. Sensory seeking can be characterized by:

– Have a constant need to touch people or textures, even when it’s not socially acceptable

– Not understand personal space even when kids the same age are old enough to understand it

– Have an extremely high tolerance for pain

– Not understand their own strength

– Be very fidgety and unable to sit still

– Love jumping, bumping and crashing activities

– Love deep pressure like tight bear hugs

– Crave fast, spinning, or intense movement

– Love being tossed in the air and jumping on furniture and trampolines

Primary treatment for sensory seeking kiddos is occupational therapy. Counseling would help in tandem with these other services to help the child develop and reach the right diagnosis. Unmet needs can lead to anxiousness, depressive symptoms, low self-esteem, poor academic and social functioning.

Counseling can help work in tandem with these services to provide individual, group, and family modalities using solution focused and cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to address the clients mental health needs and any co-occurring disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy is especially helpful because it capitalizes on recognizing our thoughts and how we think affects how we feel and act. It looks at our feelings because how we feel affects what we think and do and it assesses behaviors because how we act affects how we think and feel. Working through any negative or difficult feelings a child has about being different from their peers or having different needs from their peers can help increase confidence and decrease self-critique.

Counseling can help increase the clients coping skills and self-esteem or through group counseling children can improve their social skills. Counselors can also help clients with psychoeducation to understand what sensory processing means for them, adjust their limitations, and capitalize on their strengths. When counselors are able to educate the kids who experience sensory processing differences they are able to normalize their experience.

It’s important to remember our clients strengths versus how sensory seeking obstacles may inhibit activities of daily living. A child who seeks sensory input from spinning may excel in gymnastics or ice skating while those who need physical input may thrive in contact sports. counselors can help identify sensory triggers and establish accommodations by simultaneously addressing other emotional and behavioral symptoms that may occur in various settings or situations.

Self-regulation for sensory processing difficulties as an important coping skill to support your child in. Helping your child be mindful is a good place to start. Being present in their body and considering their own sensations, how they make them act, feel, and think. As well as how these sensations and resulting behaviors might be different from others. Conscious awareness that their sensory processing can be difficult and acknowledging this can help them develop coping strategies. Behavioral coping strategies can be covering ears or avoidance. Physical clothing strategies can be being squeezed or rubbing items. Cognitive coping strategies can be preparing for a new situation.

If your child has been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder or if any of this sounds familiar educating yourself is a good place to start. Getting your child an official diagnosis can help them get the accommodations they need as they grow and develop to make sure they are able to adapt and succeed in their environments. Education both for the child and parent helps normalize and destigmatize their needs. They are not weird for these things, and they are different from others and that’s OK.

A good place to start if you’re trying to think about how to meet your child’s sensory needs at home is a pair of noise cancelling headphones some pillows, swing, rocking chair, a bean bag or crash pad, a weighted blanket, a therapy ball or trampoline, any fidget toys, body socks, sensory bins, tents, calming music, sensory swing.

If you are a parent who can resonate with this blog, I hope you feel encouraged to reach out for help whether that be for occupational therapy, diagnosis, group, family, or individual counseling. As a parent, you are definitely not alone, your kiddo has different needs, and there are resources out there to help support both you and your child. Please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed mental health counselors.


Arielle Teets