Sensory Seeking And Sensory Avoiding

In this article, we will delve into the world of sensory seeking and sensory avoiding, discussing their definitions, causes, and potential implications for individuals who exhibit these behaviors.

reuben kesherim
Ruben Kesherim
November 1, 2023

Sensory Seeking And Sensory Avoiding

Understanding Sensory Seeking Behavior

To comprehend sensory seeking behavior, it is important to explore its definition and understand its impact on individuals.

What is Sensory Seeking Behavior?

Sensory seeking behavior refers to a tendency or desire in individuals to actively seek out and engage in sensory experiences. These experiences can include a wide range of sensations, such as touch, sound, taste, smell, and visual stimuli. Individuals who engage in sensory seeking behavior are often motivated by the need to satisfy their sensory cravings and seek out sensory input.

Sensory seeking behavior can manifest in various ways and can differ between individuals. Some common examples include seeking out intense sensory experiences, engaging in repetitive motions or behaviors, and actively exploring the environment to seek sensory stimulation.

This behavior is not limited to individuals with neurodevelopmental conditions, such as autism or sensory processing disorder, but can also be observed in individuals without any diagnosed conditions.

It's important to note that sensory seeking behavior is not inherently negative or problematic. In fact, it can be a healthy and natural way for individuals to engage with the world around them and satisfy their sensory needs. However, when sensory seeking becomes excessive or interferes with daily functioning, it may be necessary to provide appropriate support and guidance.

The Impact of Sensory Seeking on Individuals

Sensory seeking behavior has a significant impact on individuals, influencing their experiences and interactions with the world. By actively seeking out sensory input, individuals can regulate their arousal levels, manage stress, and enhance their overall sensory experience.

Engaging in sensory seeking behavior can bring various benefits, such as increased focus, improved mood, and heightened alertness. It can also contribute to self-soothing and self-regulation, helping individuals find comfort and calmness in their environment. Furthermore, sensory seeking behavior can foster exploration, creativity, and learning opportunities.

However, sensory seeking behavior can also present challenges for individuals, particularly when it is excessive or not appropriately channeled. It can lead to difficulties with attention and impulse control, as individuals may become easily distracted by sensory stimuli.

Additionally, sensory seeking behavior can sometimes interfere with social interactions and daily routines, requiring strategies and support to ensure a balanced sensory experience.

Understanding and acknowledging sensory seeking behavior is crucial in developing effective strategies to support individuals who engage in this behavior. By creating sensory-friendly environments and providing appropriate sensory input and outlets, caregivers, educators, and therapists can help individuals with sensory seeking behavior thrive and reach their full potential.

Sensory Seeking and Autism

Sensory seeking behavior is commonly associated with individuals on the autism spectrum. Understanding the relationship between sensory seeking and autism can provide valuable insights into supporting individuals with sensory processing differences. In this section, we will explore the sensory processing differences in autism and the connection between sensory seeking and autism.

Sensory Processing Differences in Autism

Individuals with autism often experience atypical sensory processing, where their brains interpret and respond to sensory information differently. This can result in either sensory seeking or sensory avoiding behaviors. Sensory seeking refers to actively seeking out sensory input to regulate and engage with their environment. On the other hand, sensory avoiding behavior involves avoiding or being hypersensitive to certain sensory stimuli.

Autistic individuals may have altered sensory responses across various sensory modalities, including auditory, visual, tactile, olfactory, and proprioceptive senses. For example, an individual with autism may seek out loud noises, bright lights, certain textures, or strong smells to fulfill their sensory needs. These sensory seeking behaviors can serve as a way for individuals to self-regulate and make sense of their surroundings.

The Connection between Sensory Seeking and Autism

Sensory seeking behavior is often observed in individuals with autism as a coping mechanism or a way to manage sensory overload. Engaging in sensory seeking activities can help individuals with autism regulate their sensory systems and maintain an optimal level of arousal. It allows them to explore and interact with their environment in a way that is meaningful to them.

The connection between sensory seeking and autism goes beyond seeking sensory input. It is also linked to other characteristics of autism, such as repetitive behaviors and restricted interests. For some individuals with autism, engaging in repetitive sensory seeking behaviors can provide a sense of comfort and predictability in an otherwise overwhelming world.

Understanding the sensory processing differences in autism and the connection between sensory seeking and autism is crucial for creating supportive environments and providing appropriate interventions. By recognizing and respecting an individual's sensory seeking behaviors, caregivers, educators, and therapists can implement strategies that cater to their unique sensory needs.

In the next section, we will explore the signs and symptoms of sensory seeking behavior across different sensory modalities and the behavioral indicators associated with sensory seeking.

Signs and Symptoms of Sensory Seeking Behavior

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of sensory seeking behavior is essential for understanding and supporting individuals who engage in this type of behavior. Sensory seeking behavior can manifest across different sensory modalities and can be identified through various behavioral indicators.

Sensory Seeking in Different Sensory Modalities

Sensory seeking behavior can manifest in different sensory modalities, including but not limited to:

1. Vestibular Seeking

Individuals who seek vestibular input may engage in activities that involve movement, such as spinning, swinging, or jumping. They may show a preference for activities that provide a sense of motion and balance.

2. Proprioceptive Seeking

Proprioceptive seeking behavior involves seeking deep pressure and muscle input. Individuals may engage in activities such as squeezing or hugging themselves tightly, seeking heavy objects to lift, or leaning against walls or furniture.

3. Tactile Seeking

Tactile seeking behavior involves seeking touch and tactile input. Individuals may seek out different textures and sensations by touching various objects, rubbing surfaces, or engaging in activities that involve tactile stimulation.

4. Visual Seeking

Visual seeking behavior includes seeking visually stimulating experiences. Individuals may be attracted to bright lights, colors, or moving objects. They might engage in repetitive visual behaviors, such as focusing intensely on specific patterns or objects.

5. Auditory Seeking

Auditory seeking behavior involves seeking auditory stimulation. Individuals may seek out loud noises, repetitive sounds, or engage in activities that produce sound, such as tapping objects or making vocalizations.

Behavioral Indicators of Sensory Seeking

Identifying behavioral indicators can provide further insights into sensory seeking behavior. Some common behavioral indicators of sensory seeking may include:

  • Excessive movement: Individuals may engage in constant movement, such as spinning, rocking, or pacing.
  • Intense fascination: They may display intense fascination or preoccupation with certain sensory experiences or objects.
  • Seeking out specific sensations: Individuals may actively seek out sensory input by touching, smelling, or tasting objects.
  • Restlessness: They may appear restless or constantly in motion, seeking new and varied sensory experiences.
  • High activity level: Individuals may engage in energetic activities for extended periods, seeking sensory stimulation.
  • Impulsivity: They may display impulsive behaviors, driven by their need for sensory input.
  • Difficulty sitting still: Individuals may have difficulty staying seated or may fidget excessively.

Understanding the signs and symptoms of sensory seeking behavior can help caregivers, educators, and therapists effectively support individuals who engage in this behavior. By providing appropriate sensory input and sensory seeking activities, individuals can find constructive and enjoyable ways to satisfy their sensory needs.

Strategies for Supporting Sensory Seekers

Individuals who engage in sensory seeking behavior can benefit from strategies that create a supportive and accommodating environment. By understanding their sensory needs and providing appropriate outlets, caregivers and professionals can help sensory seekers thrive. Two key strategies for supporting sensory seekers are creating a sensory-friendly environment and providing sensory input and outlets.

Creating a Sensory-Friendly Environment

A sensory-friendly environment is crucial for individuals with sensory seeking behavior. Creating such an environment involves minimizing sensory overload and providing opportunities for sensory exploration and regulation. Here are some key considerations:

  1. Visual Environment: Ensure the environment has appropriate lighting, avoiding harsh fluorescent lights or excessive visual clutter. Use natural lighting or soft, adjustable lighting options when possible.
  2. Auditory Environment: Minimize background noise and provide quiet spaces for individuals to retreat to when needed. Consider using sound-absorbing materials, such as acoustic panels or rugs, to reduce echo and reverberation.
  3. Tactile Environment: Offer a variety of tactile experiences through the use of different textures, such as soft fabrics, smooth surfaces, or textured objects. Provide opportunities for touch-based sensory play and exploration.
  4. Olfactory Environment: Be mindful of strong or overwhelming smells that may trigger sensory discomfort. Opt for neutral or calming scents, if any, in the environment.
  5. Spatial Environment: Allow for ample space and freedom of movement. Avoid crowded spaces and provide clear pathways to minimize sensory challenges related to spatial awareness.
  6. Individualized Support: Recognize that each individual's sensory needs may vary. Tailor the environment to the specific preferences and sensitivities of the sensory seeker, if known.

Providing Sensory Input and Outlets

Sensory seekers often require additional sensory input to regulate their sensory systems effectively. Providing appropriate sensory input and outlets can help individuals meet their sensory needs in a constructive manner. Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Sensory Diet: Develop a personalized sensory diet in collaboration with a qualified professional, such as an occupational therapist. A sensory diet consists of planned activities and interventions that provide the right amount and type of sensory input needed to regulate the individual's sensory system.
  2. Sensory Breaks: Allow for regular sensory breaks throughout the day. These breaks can involve engaging in sensory activities or finding a quiet and calming space to relax and reset. Sensory seeking activities, such as jumping on a trampoline or using a sensory swing, can provide the input sensory seekers crave.
  3. Fidget Tools: Provide access to fidget tools or sensory toys that allow individuals to engage their sensory systems in a productive way. These tools can include items like stress balls, textured objects, or chewable necklaces.
  4. Physical Activity: Encourage regular exercise and physical activity, as it can help individuals regulate their sensory systems. Activities such as running, yoga, or swimming can provide the necessary sensory input and promote overall well-being.
  5. Choice and Control: Offer choices and opportunities for individuals to have control over their sensory experiences. Allow them to select preferred sensory activities or tools within appropriate boundaries.

By providing sensory input and outlets, caregivers and professionals can support individuals with sensory seeking behavior in developing self-regulation skills and maintaining a balanced sensory experience.

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Sensory Seeking and Self-Regulation

Understanding the relationship between sensory seeking behavior and self-regulation is crucial in supporting individuals who engage in sensory seeking activities. Let's explore the role of sensory seeking in self-regulation and strategies for building self-regulation skills in sensory seekers.

The Role of Sensory Seeking in Self-Regulation

Sensory seeking behavior can play a significant role in self-regulation. For individuals who experience sensory processing differences, engaging in sensory seeking activities can help regulate their sensory systems and achieve a state of balance. Sensory seekers actively seek out sensory input to meet their sensory needs, which can have a calming and organizing effect on their nervous systems.

By engaging in activities such as rocking, spinning, or seeking tactile input, sensory seekers are able to regulate their sensory systems and maintain an optimal level of arousal. These activities provide the sensory input they crave, helping them to focus, self-soothe, and better engage with their environment.

It's important to note that sensory seeking behavior should not be dismissed or discouraged. Instead, providing appropriate outlets for sensory seeking can contribute to an individual's overall well-being and self-regulation.

Building Self-Regulation Skills in Sensory Seekers

Supporting sensory seekers in developing self-regulation skills is essential for their overall sensory well-being. Here are some strategies that can be helpful:

  1. Structured Sensory Breaks: Incorporate scheduled sensory breaks throughout the day to provide opportunities for sensory seekers to engage in sensory activities. These breaks can be tailored to their specific sensory preferences and can include activities like jumping on a trampoline, using a therapy ball, or engaging in deep pressure activities.
  2. Sensory Diet: A sensory diet is a personalized plan that includes specific sensory activities designed to meet an individual's sensory needs. Collaborate with a sensory therapist to develop a sensory diet that includes a variety of sensory activities to support self-regulation.
  3. Environmental Modifications: Create a sensory-friendly environment that supports self-regulation. Consider factors such as lighting, noise levels, and the availability of sensory tools like fidget toys or weighted blankets. This will provide sensory seekers with a safe and comfortable space to engage in sensory activities.
  4. Visual Supports: Utilize visual supports such as visual schedules or visual timers to help sensory seekers understand and anticipate sensory breaks and transitions. This can assist them in self-regulating and transitioning between activities more smoothly.

By implementing these strategies, caregivers and professionals can support sensory seekers in developing effective self-regulation skills. Remember, each individual is unique, and it's important to tailor interventions to their specific sensory needs and preferences.

Understanding the role of sensory seeking in self-regulation and providing appropriate support can empower individuals to navigate their sensory experiences more effectively and lead fulfilling lives.


Sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors represent a diverse spectrum of sensory processing preferences and responses to the environment. While these behaviors can be complex and multifaceted, understanding and addressing them is essential for improving the quality of life for individuals who exhibit these tendencies.

Recognizing that everyone experiences the world through their unique sensory lens is the first step in fostering empathy and providing support to those with sensory processing differences.