Today I’m talking about Sensory Sensitivities, what it is and what strategies to use.

-Let’s start with what is a sensory sensitivity.

  • -How aware an individual is in regards to their sensory system : (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell)
  • Often times, our children exhibit inappropriate reactions to their environment, through their 5 senses.  This is called a sensory sensitivity. This can be demonstrated from various sounds they hear, textures on their clothes, lights, and even odors. 
  • -Up to 90% of learners with autism spectrum disorder display a sensory sensitivity  But over all, sensory sensitivities affect up to 3 million children within the United States. 
  • But sensory sensitivities are not limited to learners in a special education classroom, and research continues to demonstrate that some students participating in a typical elementary classroom are displaying the same sensory qualifications. It has been documented in research that when sensory needs are not addressed and fulfilled, inappropriate behaviors could emerge.
  • This can look like tantrums, covering ears, flapping hands, withdrawal, inattention, lack of controlling emotions, distractibility, insensitivity to pain, and lack of arousal, etc. These are just some displays of how your family member might cope with these variables. 
  • Researchers have discovered that when the sensory needs are not addressed adequately, outcomes can be overwhelming to not only the child, but to the family as well

Let’s move into the 3 sensory groups.

Sensory Seeker

  • -A sensory seeker is a learner who craves or seeks out high intensity sensory sensations or extremely stimulating activities.  This individual also could be identified as someone who looks for unusual sensory interests. This individual is inclined to be uncoordinated, impulsive, distracted, highly energetic, constantly on the move, aggressive, and may require higher amounts of sensory feedback to address their excessive desire for sensory input.

Some examples of this individual include: When playing with toys, this learner may bang items, crash into the wall for direct pressure, stare intensely into lights, or even sniff pungent odors.  With a person who has a typical or normal sensory system, many of these examples would be considered painful or too intense.  But not for an individual who seeks out sensory input.  

As far as this individuals academic behaviors, if they see a classroom assignment as overwhelming or under stimulating (boring), the learner could simply avoid the task all together without explaining the situation to the teacher.

  • Under-responder 
  • The next classification of sensory learner is the under-responder.  This type of learner is considered more passive, underreacts to situations, is less aware of their surroundings, and may not appear to react to pain.  There is an overall lack of response or delayed response that one would expect when presented with a new stimulus or experience
  • They may also have low muscle tone, poor posture, loose joints, struggles with handwriting.  Often the mindset of an under-responder is withdrawal and to isolate themselves. 

The last group is the Over-responder.

  • -This type of hyper-reactivity to the environment affect up 56-70% of learners with ASD are identified here as well as 10 to 17% of the typical population.  
  • This learner’s neurological system is exaggerated, this means they are overly sensitive to things around them.   Might demonstrate high levels of anxiety, avoids swings, heights, and dislikes messy play.
  • Essentially, the environment becomes unmanageable and extremely overwhelming.  This individual might have difficulty comforting themselves due to the stress and even pain they feel inside. An example of an overwhelming environment might be excessive stimuli on the walls, touching finger paints, walking into a over-crowded room or listening to someone else scream or talk loudly.  

-Lastly, we are going to talk about what strategies to use with each category of sensory sensitivity.

-Sensory Seeker

  • Integrating sensory input for the sensory seeker should be structured and scheduled into the daily routine.  
  • Since deep pressure is what this learner is requesting, then deep pressure activities or techniques should be considered for increased sensations. 
  • These activities could include isometric exercises, carrying heavy items, jumping on a trampoline, sitting on a sit disc, weighted blankets, or even using weighted pencils.  Additionally, since many learners who are sensory seekers prefer textures that they can rub or scrape, it would be beneficial to add in an assortment of fabrics for a tactile sensory experience

-Under-responder

  • An under-responder requires a more intense sensory intervention program for their bodies to acknowledge the input provided.  Movement breaks are suggested throughout the school day to ensure an increased amount of input has been met. Some examples for sensory input:   the sit disc, ball chair, a TheraBand around the individual chair so that they can move their legs, push ups, walking, jogging, jumping on a trampoline, bouncing on an exercise ball, skipping, or even carrying heavy objects. 

Over-responder

  • This individual requires environmental modifications in order to provide a way for the nervous system to relax and produce a calming sensation throughout the body.  
  • It has been suggested that implementing a scheduled sensory diet could limit unwanted behaviors and therefore enabling the individual to learn to cope with the environment.
  • Some other sensory suggestions are to use less stimulation on the walls, limit noise and use more of an organized area to work in. 
  • Utilize calming strategies, noise canceling headphones, use natural lighting. 
  • Lastly, you can have the individual go swimming, jump on the trampoline, bounce on a yoga ball, and wear compression shirts/blankets.

I hope these sensory strategies were helpful and if you have any questions or feedback please visit us on the web at spedadvisors.com or go to admin@spedadvisors.com

Better together, stronger together, and always connected together

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