c. Seeking Behavior
'Sensory seeking' behavior has its own criteria which is the ASD brain craving more sensory stimuli than what it is already getting. But, sensory ‘seeking behavior’ also includes ‘sensory avoidance’ behavior, as you will see.
Sensory Seeking Behavior –
Bogdashina & Casanova (2016) introduce us to sensory ‘seeking behavior’ by saying that sometimes the brain just seeks more sensory stimuli, like when we feel more comfortable having ‘white noise’ in the room while we’re reading. Each person it seems has different thresholds for their sensory seeking needs.
The problem comes in when that 'need', or ‘sensory seeking’ leads to inattentive or overfocused behavior, due to the inability of the person to modulate their needs. They say that ‘sensory seeking’, ‘sensory craving’ are very common in autism. This can also seem to be influenced by the person’s high or low energy and/or activity levels.
Typical ‘sensory seeking’ behaviors, as these authors see it, are those seeking sensory input by twirling, chewing, and needing constant auditory input (sounds). In a play setting, the ‘sensory seeking’ child will choose to play roughly with nearby individuals.
Kranowitz (2006) gives examples of recognizable ‘sensory seeking’ behaviors –
- Splashing in mud, seeking types of play in dirt
- Dumping toy bins rummaging through them aimlessly
- Chewing on objects or clothing
- Rubbing against walls or furniture and bumping into people
- Loves spinning in circles, amusement rides, and is constantly moving
- Fidgets, has difficulty sitting still and takes bold risks
- Frequently wants bear hugs and vigorous playground activities
- Seeks visually stimulating things, shiny objects, strobe lights, or sunlight
- Loves loud noises, TV or music volume, crowds and places with lots of action
- Problems sleeping
- Enjoys strong odors, even unattractive ones
- May lick or taste inedible objects and prefers spicy or hot foods
- Frequently attempt to engage in rough play, such as wrestling
Sensory ‘seeking behavior’ has its own criteria which also includes ‘sensory avoidance’ behavior. This behavior may preclude persons from a natural social interaction with others, because they tend to avoid some, but not all, of the following sensory experiences; according to Green, et al. (2016) –
Sensory Avoidance Behavior –
- Touching or getting too close to someone
- Being groomed or grooming self
- Going barefoot
- Being splashed with water
- Rubbing or scratching a spot that’s been touched
- Certain foods
- Certain tastes
- Certain textures or temperatures
- Covers mouth or won’t open it
- Feet leaving the ground
- Being tipped upside-down
- Holds on to things
- Distracted by noise (near or far away)
- No background noise
- Doesn’t respond to name when s/he hears it called
- Covers ears
- Refuses eye contact
- Bothered by lights
- Concerned with a lot of movement
- Covers eyes
Amanda Morin (2018) feels that most ‘sensory seekers’ are undersensitive (hyposensitive). They look for more sensory stimulation in order to make them feel less sluggish and more ‘in their bodies’ and ‘in their space’. They may stand too close, keep touching people or objects, like loud noises, and chew on whatever is handy.
Saying that there are also ‘sensory avoiding’ (hypersensitive) kids that experience sensory input more intensely.
They avoid it because it’s overwhelming to them. They may seem timid, be picky eaters, and be fussy about what they wear. They may be able to calm themselves down… or, may have many, many meltdowns, because they cannot cope with tactile, visual, taste, and noise sensitivity.
< My Thoughts > “…fussy about what they wear.”
“Keep your clothes on until Mom or Dad tells you to take them off!” Smiles.
Morin continues, “It’s not always one or the other.” Some kids show a combination of the two reactions, both 'hyper' and 'hypo' reactivity. She says that responses can change based on their level of arousal or ability to self-regulate. That knowing your child’s reactions and triggers can help. Amanda Morin – classroom teacher and early intervention specialist. www.everythingkidslearning.com
Mays, et al. (2011) tell us that it becomes critical for teachers to intervene and decrease or replace self-stimulatory behaviors so the student may attend to instruction and learn new skills.
Bobby’s teacher laments, “He is constantly rocking, flapping his hands, and hopping in his chair!” When a student is engaged in ‘stereotypy’, it can be difficult to gain his or her attention or engage him or her in a learning activity because of the reinforcing nature of the self-stimulatory behavior. Note: One of the defining characteristics of autism is the presence of ‘stereotypy’ behavior. This is a behavior, which when it is repetitive, does not appear to serve a purpose and appears inappropriate for the environment.
This teacher, Mays relates, one day decides to let Bobby jump on the trampoline before reading group. This helps, but still his rocking time is up to 30 minutes. She tries replacing the trampoline jumping with rocking in a rocking chair. This slower, more controlled movement works so well, she lets him sit in it and rock during reading group. He is now completing more assignments and participating in class activities more frequently without rocking.
NOTE: Next time... 4. EP-ACTIVITY (Enhanced Perception).
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Zachor & Ben-Itzchak (2014) discuss sensory seeking as ‘negative sensory responses’ and ‘unusual sensory interests’, two different sensory abnormality types.
The first type – ‘idiosyncratic negative sensory responses’. An abnormal emotional sensory reaction, other than fear, which happens every time that person experiences a certain sensory stimuli.
< My Thoughts > Such as echolalia; repeating idiosyncratic phrases for no seeming purpose, other than a sensory response to something past, present, or future.
The second type – ‘unusual sensory interests’ refers to an unusually strong or repeated reaction to, or seeking of, stimulation from basic sensory input. Such as unusually strong or repeated reactions or seeking of the basic everyday sensory stimuli.
They note that a criterion of ‘unusual sensory interests’ has been added recently to the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V (DSM-5); and that the ‘emotional reaction’, other than ‘fear response’, should have lasted for at least 3 months, with that person in clinical presentation.
Alisha Grogam (2018) says that the reason kids are so active, rough, and even dangerous could be due to the differences in the way their brain processes the sensory input it receives throughout the day. Or, it could be diet related, behavioral, or that sensory seeking kids are often NOT processing the normal sensations they receive during the day. As a result, they seek out even more sensory sensations. They run into the street, or through the parking lot. They may even try to climb whatever is close, like the family refrigerator, in search of needed sensory stimulation.
She tells us that there are two sources of sensory stimuli for these kids… through their ‘proprioception’ and/or ‘vestibular’ stimulation systems. The first – ‘proprioception’ is the need for activities like squeezing, hanging, climbing, and jumping. The second – ‘vestibular’ is the need for activities like spinning, swinging, climbing heights. Above text from Alisha Grogam MOT, OTR/L. Retrieved from –https://yourkidstable.com/sensory-strategies-wild-kids/
< My Thoughts > “…through their ‘proprioception’ and/or ‘vestibular’ stimulation systems.”
Proprioception, or body awareness sense, tells us where our body parts are relative to each other. Also it gives us information about how much force to use in certain activities, allowing us to crack open an egg without crushing it in our hands.
Schaaf & Lane (2015) talk about ‘proprioception’ as the sense of body position and movement, as it interacts with the environment. Reminding us that ‘motor clumsiness’ is one of the hallmarks of ASD which previously was thought to be caused by over-reliance on visual information. More recent literature seems to say that persons with ASD have enhanced ‘proprioception’, but that the inability of the ‘mirror neuron system’ to utilize that information may be limited.
Some say that limited mirror neuron system (MNS) information is like taking input from an alien commander; the inability to copy actions. Dapetto, et al. (2006) say those with lack of MNS information seem not to be able to perform the task of imitation. Or must adopt increased visual and motor attention to perform it at all, and then it is usually performed poorly.
REFERENCES used here are:
Bogdashina, O. & Casanova (2016). Sensory Perceptual Issues in Autism and Asperger Syndrome, Different Sensory Experiences – Different Perceptual Worlds; Second Edition: London; Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Dapetto, M., Davies, M., Pfeifer, J. (2006). Understanding Emotions in Others: Mirror Neuron Dysfunction in Children with Autism; Nature Publishing Group; http:www.nature.com/natureneuroscience.
Green, D., Chandler, S., Charman, T., et al. (2016). Brief Report: DSM-5 Sensory Behaviors in Children with & Without an Autism Spectrum Disorder; A Preliminary Investigation; Journal of Autism Developmental Disorders; V46, p3597–3606.
Kranowitz, C. (2006). The Out-of-Sync Child Series; Tarcher Perigree Publisher; N.Y., N.Y.
Mays, N., Beal-Alvarez, J., Jolivette, K. (2011). Using Movement-Based Sensory Interventions to Address Self-Stimulatory Behaviors in Students with Autism; Teaching Exceptional Children; V43, p46-52.
Schaaf, R. & Lane, A. (2015). Toward Best-Practice Protocol for Assessment of Sensory Features in ASD; Journal of Autism Developmental Disorders; V45, p1380–1395.
Zachor, D. & Ben-Itzchak, E. (2014). The Relationship Between Clinical Presentation and Unusual Sensory Interests in Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Preliminary Investigation; Journal of Autism Developmental Disorders; V44, p229–235.
Note: NEXT BLOG #5H SENSORY CATEGORIES
< My Thoughts > What I am offering here is a powerful story which may capture in a moment, what it is like to have this experience. (Brain balance)
MIRACLES ARE MADE: A Real-Life Guide to Autism, by Lynette Louise, an eBook 2011 Edition; with < My Thoughts > by Sara Luker
Focused Excerpts from the book (14% indicates location in the Kindle version of the book, instead of page numbers.)
14% I know it seems as if I am saying neurofeedback is the perfect panacea that heals everything from finances to depression, but that is because brain disorders always present as clusters of symptoms rather than just one singular problem.
For example, one child with sensory-seeking behavior may be satisfied by great big deep pressure hugs and tics. While another with the same disorder may have outbursts, periods of despondency, contact avoidance, seizures, and self-abusive behavior. Thus it is true to say that ‘autism’ is a group of symptoms rather than a particular thing.
31% For some, this translates to walking around naked, or playing with their feces or tasting, touching, and smelling everyone and everything that catches their attention. As a result, many with autism are kept from circulating with the population because of their parents’ fears that the child’s desire to self stimulate his or her groin on various inanimate objects might be misinterpreted. This is often a symptom of sexual abuse in neuro-typical kids.
< My Thoughts > “…neurofeedback – giving the brain information about how to balance” overwhelming sensory seeking activity.
A study Sokhadze, et al. (2014) states that…“Neurofeedback improved executive functioning and behavioral symptoms in autism.” The study found that a myriad of environmental noise which persons cannot separate or identify “could account for the strong aversive reactions to auditory, tactile and visual stimuli that are common in autism.”
4% I am relatively attracted to balance so this makes me happy. I come by my attraction to balance naturally. I know that to be true because my main and most-used therapy is neurofeedback. It is a means of reading brain wave activity and then giving the brain information about how to balance that activity. Balance, as it turns out, is the secret to mental and physical health and all life is endowed with the desire to achieve it. Sometimes we call that desire for balance “the pursuit of happiness.”
< My Thoughts > To me, I can see where this kind of neurofeedback success could qualify as a ‘balance’ of life and a ‘pursuit of happiness.’ Smiles.
REFERENCES used here are:
Sokhadze, E., El-Baz, A. Tasman, A. et al. (2014). Neuromodulation Integrating rTMS & Neurofeedback for the Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Exploratory Study; Applied Psychophysiology & Biofeedback; V39:3/4, p237-257
< My Thoughts > What I am offering here is a powerful story which may capture in a moment, what it is like to have this experience. (Sensory seeking – Olfactory & Tactile & Pica)
Seeing Ezra: A Mother’s Story of Autism, Unconditional Love, and the Meaning of Normal by Kerry Cohen, eBook 2011 Edition; an Extended Review with < My Thoughts > by Sara Luker
Excerpts from the book – (73% indicates location in the Kindle version of the book, instead of page numbers).
73% Every once in a while, Ezra poops in the bathtub and presses it between his fingers. Or he poops in the toilet and plays with it in the toilet water.
Sometimes we find him in the back yard scooping up mud and putting it in his mouth. He shreds covers from his books and chews on the paper. He eats sand, dirt, and muddy leaves.
24% Ezra mouthed things, like most babies, and then he stopped when most toddlers do. Only more recently started with the pica.
73% The words – autism pica, sensory seeking could not possibly describe what they really are, or what it really feels like for either him or us.
11% Pica, a childhood disorder characterized by compulsive and persistent cravings for nonfood items, such as mud and paper. Pica is common among children with autism.
< My Thoughts > “Pica is common among children with autism.”
Pica behavior usually decreases with age, however adults with the combination of severe Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Intellectual Disabilities (ID) may still engage in this dangerous and challenging behavior, according to Matson, et al. (2012). They go on to say that the underlying causes of this disorder and impairment of daily functioning and poor impulse control, are still unknown, today.
Hirsch & Myles (1996) tell us that the name ‘pica’ originates from the Latin word for magpie, a bird known to pick up non-food items to satisfy hunger or curiosity. They sound the alarm that this “abnormal craving for non-food items such as paint, dirt, clay, grass, paper, even glass and small batteries can, and do, result in hospitalization and even death.” For instance, swallowing multiple magnets can cause them to engage, closing off parts of the intestine or bowel, resulting in tissue perforation and death. Child may only experience flu-like symptoms.
Further, these authors explain that the Pica Box can be successful when used as an intervention to reduce, control, or eliminate this behavior. With hyper-vigilance, in a controlled setting, when the child shows an interest in eating non-food items in the environment, they are offered safe items which mimic the chewy items they crave.
The pica box contains substitutes such as beef jerky for tree bark, raisins or Grape Nuts for dirt/mud/sand, marshmallows for cloth items, clean wash cloth to suck on. If this therapy works, it can save the child from severe illness, poisoning, broken teeth, mouth lacerations, or even death. An indicator that the child is about to look for a non-food item is they sometimes start scavenging around on the ground or floor, mouthing toys, beginning to breath rapidly and make low throaty sounds.
REFERENCES used here are:
Hirsch, N., Myles, B. (1996). The Use of a Pica Box in Reducing Pica Behavior in a Student with Autism; Focus on Autism & Other Developmental Disabilities; V11N4, p222-225.
< My Thoughts > What I am offering here is a powerful story which may capture in a moment, what it is like to have this experience. (Sensory Seeking – Olfactory & Proprioception)
Making Peace with Autism: One Family’s Story of Struggle, Discovery & Unexpected Gifts by Susan Senator, eBook 2006 Edition; an Extended Review with < My Thoughts > by Sara Luker
Excerpts from the book – (9% indicates location in the Kindle version of the book, instead of page numbers).
9% When Nat was eighteen months, I noticed that he had learned the bizarre behavior of sucking his thumb and staring straight at the ceiling, to block out everything going on around him and make him feel calm again.
87% Why were they giving him Twizzlers every few minutes? “Chewing can calm him,” one of the aides explained. “ It gives him sensory input in his mouth.” I realized the aide’s technique came out of the sensory integration (SI) school of therapy, in which neurologically challenged children are encouraged to chew rubbery or crunchy items as a way of gaining a particular kind of sensory stimulation that can calm them and even elicit better language skills. I’m sure Nat understood as a reward and an incentive to behave badly, he was given candy.
83% One day we found boogie boards at my parents’ beach house and we went to the ocean side of the Cape to try them out. Immediately Nat was captivated. The drama of the ocean spoke to him. The dependable ebb and flow of the waves appealed to his need for predictability, and the heavy salt smell and the crashing of the surf seemed to break through the sensory stew in his head.
< My Thoughts > What I am offering here is a powerful story which may capture in a moment, what it is like to have this experience. (Sensory seeking – Proprioception)
No You Don’t – Essays from an Unstrange Mind by Sparrow Rose Jones, eBook Edition 2013; with < My Thoughts > by Sara Luker
Focused Excerpts from the book (22% indicates location in the Kindle version of the book, instead of page numbers.)
22% Then there are sensory issues. These can be sensory sensitivities or under-sensitivities. I have both. High pitched noises make me dizzy and nauseated. I get so dizzy that sometimes I fall down. My head aches and I feel like throwing up.
23% But there is another sense that doesn’t always get talked about when we talk about the sensory issues and it’s called proprioception. That is the sense of knowing where your body is in space and I have an under-sensitivity in that sense. I can’t feel the ground well under my feet. Combinations of movements and balance like mounting a bike by throwing my leg over it are very difficult for me.
24% I love the sensory input I get from swinging on a swing. In the last couple of years, I have begun sleeping in a Brazilian hammock. …I find the swaying movement very soothing. I go to sleep so much more quickly and stay asleep more soundly …
< My Thoughts > “I find the swaying movement very soothing.”
Sensory or therapy swings offer opportunities for improving body awareness, sensory and proprioceptive integration. Plus swinging and swaying has the added benefit of acting as relaxing and calming the person with autism. Just another item to look for when online shopping. Smiles.
< My Thoughts > What I am offering here is a powerful story which may capture in a moment, what it is like to have this experience. (Sensory Seeking & Proprioception) and (Sensory Avoidance – Oral Defensiveness )
Child’s Journey Out of Autism: One Family’s Story of Living in Hope and Finding a Cure
by Leeann Whiffen, eBook 2009 Edition; an Extended Review with < My Thoughts > by Sara Luker
Focused Excerpts from the book (22% indicates location in the Kindle version of the book, instead of page numbers.)
19% Jay, the occupational therapist, asks me questions about Clay’s sensory issues. “He will eat only bland foods that are tan in color and/or round foods.
< My Thoughts > “He will eat only…”
Norris, et al. (2018) talk about ‘restrictive repetitive’ behavior when it comes to food. This is about ‘nutritional avoidance, when it comes to the sensory characteristics of food. The study covered adolescents who had low overall appetite, lack of interest, and difficulties with food. As a result, they manifested inadequate weight gain for growth. It also covered adolescents with the history of food phobia and/or picky eating, or rigidity involving eating; such as food items not touching on their plate. A third avoidance restriction was due to fear of choking, pain, or nausea.
The study covered ‘mixed presentations’ where the adolescent limited food intake because of two or three of these avoidance behaviors. They tried to discover ‘subtypes’ which would indicate other indicators. They looked at length of illness, gender, and other disorders – anxiety, mood, externalizing, developmental disorders.
19% He falls down the stairs multiple times per day and seems to have trouble with his balance. He jumps around the house, outside, everywhere – constantly. He reminds me of Tigger, you know, from Winnie the Pooh,” I tell him.
“Do you have a trampoline?” I shake my head, no. I ask, “Do you think that would help?” at this point, I’m ready to sell my home to finance African elephant research if it will help my son. “I think a trampoline, even just one of those inexpensive mini tramps, will help him develop better balance and coordination,” says Jay. “The jumping compresses his joints and gives his body the proprioceptive input, or sensory input and feedback, his body is seeking.
Jay continues, “Because Clay craves vestibular stimulation like jumping and swinging, he will be more calm if you brush him and jump with him several times a day and before going out in public.”
< My Thoughts > “…he will be more calm if you jump with him before going out in public.”
Acuhealth (2011) tell us that, although it doesn’t seem likely, rebounding on a trampoline can calm a person with a Sensory Seeking & Proprioception disorder. They say that jumping on the trampoline fulfills an energy, sensory, and physical need for input to their joints, legs, and body. Eventually these kids will learn gross motor coordination, feel grounded and thus calmer than they did before they started. A side benefit they say too is the fun social interaction with peers and siblings.
Retrieved from: http://www.infobarrel.com/Trampolines__How_They_Can_Help_Kids_With_Autism_
REFERENCES used here are:
Norris, M., Spettigue, W., Hammond, N., et al. (2018). Building evidence for the use of descriptive subtypes in youth with restrictive food intake disorder; International Journal of Eating Disorders; V51, p170-173.
< My Thoughts > What I am offering here is a powerful story which may capture in a moment, what it is like to have this experience. (Sensory Avoidance – Auditory & Olfactory Defensiveness )
All Because of Henry by Nuala Gardner eBook 2013 Edition; with < My Thoughts > by Sara Luker
(9% indicates location in the Kindle version of the book, instead of page numbers.)
9% For those affected by autism, having a friend is every bit as important as it is to anyone else, yet it is possible the most complex challenge of all. Friendship, after all, imparts social belonging and is inclusive in a real meaningful way.
Both my children have often told me that they hated the isolation when they couldn’t engage or integrate socially.
Both have told me that in an attempt to cope, they would withdraw more into their autistic world, immersing themselves further into their obsessions as a substitute for company.
Amy was one of the lucky ones. Her teachers knew how to work with her autism in a positive way. Small but constructive adjustments made a huge difference. The award of a horse sticker instead of a star, being allowed to draw horses in her busy book on completion of classwork or work well done, all these little things added up.
Dale’s educational motivators has been trains and dogs.
Both children had sensory integration issues. Practitioners now understand how sensory stimulus can overload an environment. Sensory issues alone can have a direct affect on the person’s ability to cope with situations, and it can completely undermine their receptiveness to learning.
Consider the sensory stimulus in a classroom: the glare of strip lights, the wall displays of paintings and projects, all the colors and endless information. Think of the sounds and smells of the seats and desks! No wonder they become overwhelmed. Add people into the mix.
Even to this day Amy still struggles, particularly with food, let alone with the environment in which she is eating. For example, one day not too long ago, as I was crunching away at my cereal, she said, “Nuala, eat your breakfast in another room. The noise hurts my ears and the look and smell of it makes me feel sick.”
< My Thoughts > “The noise hurts my ears and the look and smell of it makes me feel sick.”
Sensory Processing Disorder – also known as Sensory Integration Dysfunction is still in the process of becoming widely accepted and treated by all professionals. Even though the theories have been around for almost four decades, much still needs to be done before children who are behaviorally and emotionally imprisoned by their perception and interpretation of sensory input.
Auditory Defensiveness – Over sensitivity to certain sounds, or frequencies. They may cover their ears or make sounds in an attempt to block out the offensive noises.
Olfactory Defensiveness – Certain smells may make a child agitated. The child may turn away, leave the room or even throw up if becoming overly nauseous.
Retrieved from: https://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/sensory-defensiveness.html
Our Sonny comforts himself by making noises, pushing music buttons on his board books, or by throwing things around the room when really agitated and sensory defensive.