People with sensory processing difficulties can be hypersensitive (over-sensitive) and hyposensitive (under-sensitive) to sensory input, this blog will give you the tools to know if you are hyposensitive to your senses. Today we are going to look at hyposensitivity, which is being under-sensitive to sensory input. For more information on hypersensitivity see our blog
Those who are under-sensitive to sensory input are called seekers because they seek out extra sensory input due to being under sensitive. If someone is a sensory seeker they may become distracted whilst seeking out the sensory input they need. They may wander or follow things without being aware that they are doing this. Just like those who are avoiders (who tend to run away and hide), those who pursue sensory input may wander and seek it out which can be a safety concern. Sensory seekers may also display inappropriate behaviours such as touching things and people that they don’t know.
You can learn more about what this may look like be taking each of the 8 senses in turn, and how to know if you are hyposensitive to your senses.
When it comes to being hyposensitive to sight it means that someone is not getting enough visual stimuli. This means that they need to seek out more visual stimuli. If you have a child that is under-sensitive you may find that they are attracted to bright colours or bright sparkly dancing lights. They may also become very distracted by this input and follow the lights without realising that they are wandering off. Children may be attracted to bright colourful things such as books, pictures and toys. Sensory light up toys are amazing for those who crave extra sensory input visually.
Being hyposensitive to sound doesn’t necessarily mean that someone will seek out loud noise, although this can be the case. If you are under-sensitive to sound you may seek out certain sounds or love unexpected sounds and noises. Someone who is seeking out sound may enjoy the sound of emergency sirens or fire alarms. They may like loud music or they themselves could be very loud. As a seeker of sound myself I will often play loud music on repeat. I don’t play an album it is just one song on repeat for hours and the repetition is very important. If you haven’t heard of echolalia, it is repetition of speech, this is very soothing and also a sign of sensory seeking.
If someone is hyposensitive to taste they may seek out strong tasting and textured foods. Believe it or not, this can also lead to a restricted diet as someone who craves tastes and textures may avoid foods that are blander in flavour and texture. If someone is under-sensitive to taste they may also chew and mouth things. This can include their toys, their clothes and even some more dangerous items like furniture and metal. It is important to consider safety when it comes to mouthing dangerous objects. Chewigems are a safe alternative to this.
Being hyposensitive to smell means that you may crave certain smells and/or strong smells. Again this can affect a person diet as they may avoid bland smelling foods. Someone may crave and seek out smells that are inappropriate or dangerous. A person who is sensory seeking may crave the smell of faeces for example. My eldest child craves the smell of our dog (and trust me she doe not smell good). Personally, I crave the smell of men’s aftershave. I have been known to follow a smell or even stop people in the street and tell them that they smell nice. I was completely unaware that this was a dangerous thing to be doing! When it comes to sensory seeking I seem to lose all rationality.
If you have a child that is under-sensitive to touch they may like to be hugged and squeezed tightly. Someone who seeks touch might like to wear tight clothes and shoes or wrap themselves up in blankets. If you are a seeker of touch you may not understand personal space and you may touch things and people who are not expecting it. Someone who is hypersensitive to touch may enjoy rough and tumble play or climb under heavy objects. Someone who is seeking more sensory stimuli through touch may bang their head off the walls and floors and bite themselves. It is important to redirect dangerous behaviours to more appropriate things. Things like weighted therapy and textured Stim toys are really helpful here.
Vestibular is our sense of balance and being under-sensitive to balance can mean that someone will struggle to stay still as they are craving movement. They may move around in their chair and fidget. They may crave rough and tumble play and enjoy playing in the park. A vestibular seeker may appear impulsive and like they are not paying attention. Due to this they may not notice or be aware of dangers.
Proprioception is our sense of spacial awareness and knowing where our limbs are in space. If a person is seeking proprioceptive input they may enjoy rough play and pushing and shoving. They might also lean hard on a pen or pencil when writing. Someone who is craving proprioceptive input may jump around and be heavy on their feet. They may also chew objects and clothing and like to wear tight clothing or be wrapped up in a blanket.
Interoception is knowing and understanding what is going on inside of our bodies. Someone who is under sensitive may not feel hunger or thirst and therefore they may forget to eat or become dehydrated. They may not feel the need to go to the toilet and this can result in frequent accidents and struggles to potty train or become dry at night. If your sense of interception is under-sensitive you may not know if you are hot or cold or if you are poorly. Someone who is under sensitive may also not feel the pain which can be quite scary as they may not respond appropriately to something you feel should have hurt them!
We hope that this blog has helped you figure out if you are hyposensitive to your senses. Being a sensory seeker or the parent of a sensory seeker can be hard work. When we are seeking sensory input we often forget what is going on around us and we may unconsciously put ourselves in dangerous or inappropriate situations. It is important to find helpful strategies to deal with this or redirect the behaviour to something more appropriate. We have lots of great information and tips to help with this in our content hub on the website. If you aren’t already a member of our sensory support group it is a great place to chat and swap helpful strategies.
If you want more support surrounding SPD, consider joining our Free Sensory Support Group on Facebook!
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