When might these occur?
sensitivities or sensory behaviours. One of the criteria that a child with Autism may meet is
experiencing hyper (high) or hypo (low) reactivity to sensory input or unusual interests in
sensory aspects of the environment. There are also children who may not have a diagnosis who may present with sensitivities to some extent.
How do I know what to look for?
Why might a child engage in sensory seeking or sensory avoiding?
- Escaping from a situation
- Releasing or blocking emotions
- Avoiding a thought, an instruction or a demand
- A way of taking a break
- A way of feeling secure and safe
- Enjoyment; it just feels good!
- It reduces anxiety
- It’s a routine now – it’s what I do!
What can I do to help?
opportunities to socialize or it may be impacting/disrupting their learning or attention. If this is a behaviour that is safe, gently speak to your child (or use pictures) to explain it is not time for this just now; however, they may have some time to engage later. Remember, it’s okay for a child to engage in these behaviours sometimes; they serve a function. You also may like to suggest to a child they engage in these when it is time for them to follow their own ideas/explore their environment or when they take a break.
A summary - How do we understand and how do we help?
- Identify if there is over or under sensitivity. Sometimes you may be able to observe this yourself, or sometimes you may need some input from trained practitioners such as a Psychologist, an Occupational Therapist or a Speech Pathologist.
- What skills and strategies can we teach the individual?
- Sensory avoiders: how can we change the environment to better assist the individual? / Sensory seekers: How can we integrate sensory input into the daily routine?
- Communicate it between environments – Let your A Team know the plan; tell yourchild’s teacher, their helpers, their grandparents, your family members, your child!
― George Eliot (Novelist, poet, journalist, and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era)
Leanne is a Hopscotch & Harmony Psychologist who has a special interest in helping young children develop social skills and emotional regulation. She supports parents and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder to learn life skills and improve well-being. Leanne consults from both Belmont and Werribee.