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Sensory Processing Disorder- Sensory Underresponsivity, Sensory Seeking & the Sensory Fluctuator - September 18, 2009

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Sensory Processing Disorder- Sensory Underresponsivity, Sensory Seeking & the Sensory Fluctuator

Copyright © 2009 Salt Lake City SPD & Parenting Examiner
Reprinted with the express permission of the author as originally published on her website.

By: Amy Spalding
Salt Lake City SPD & Parenting Examiner

Within the Sensory Processing Disorder category of Sensory Modulation Disorder there are three less common sub-types: Sensory Underresponsivity, Sensory Seeking, and the Sensory Fluctuator.

Children who are under responsive to sensory stimuli often seem to be 'off in space' or in their own little world. They may disregard sensory stimuli altogether which causes them to be withdrawn and difficult to engage. Or, they may be so creative and gifted that they ignore sensory stimuli because they are so involved in what they are doing.

The sensory disregarder may lack interest, be passive, and unable to get going. They may seem sleepy all the time, and when they were babies they may have slept more then the average infant.

The sensory disregarder may also eat a lot because they may be unable to tell when they are full. Carol Stock Kranowitz, author of The Out-of-Sync-Child, suggests giving them water, soup, or fresh fruit before each meal, and then to serve smaller portions.

The under responsive child may also bump into objects and people because they are unable to move in time to avoid them. They may not register hot or sharp objects as painful and may hurt themselves because of it. Some under responsive children chew on inedible objects like shirt sleeves and toys in order to get sensory information through their mouth.

These children may also have trouble reading non-verbal cues. They may interpret and respond to them slowly. They may also have problems reading facial expressions and body language. They may fail to laugh at things other children would laugh at, and may not react to a person's frown or an animal's growl.

The Sensory Seeking child never seems to get enough stimulation. They may want to touch and feel everything, or bump and crash into everything. They love to spin on tire swings, and may not become dizzy. They seek and crave vigorous experiences. Their brain is telling their body to act, but the actions are often disorganized. They may love to climb on everything from jungle gyms to bookshelves. The sensory craver may also seek one kind of sensation, but not pay any attention to another.

The sensory seeker is often a dare-devil and may have poor impulse control. Others frequently look at these children as troublemakers.

The Sensory Fluctuator is the child that seems to be under responsive one day, and over responsive the next. These children may seek vigorous play, but avoid messy art projects. They may seek intense sensory experiences, yet be unable to tolerate them. Their on again off again responses may depend on what they had to eat, how much sleep they had, the place, or time of day. This behavior suggests that their nervous system is undecided.

Most adults are confused and bewildered by the sensory fluctuation. Sometimes the child will be in sync, and sometimes they won't. Their attention span for certain things may be excellent, until certain sensory stimuli get in the way. These children are easily upset, and once upset, they have a hard time calming down. The need to be in control of experiences, people, and objects are a major issue for these children.

Featured Author/Blogger: Amy Spalding of the Salt Lake City SPD & Parenting Examiner

my is the mother of four boys and is expecting her first girl in a few months. She has a BA in English and has written for several newspapers. Amy was also a broadcast news archivist for seven years. In 2004, her second son was diagnosed as developmentally delayed and in the years since has been tested for Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD. She can be contacted at

We thank Amy for allowing us to reprint her copyrighted article. Please visit her blog site at Salt Lake City SPD & Parenting Examiner

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