What Is A Sensory Seeker And Sensory Avoider 

Children who have Sensory Processing Disorder usually fall into two categories, a seeker or an avoider. 

Most people think that you have to be one or the other but you can actually be an avoider and a seeker too. It's more common to be both than one or the other. 

A sensory seeker is hyposensitive and an avoider is hypersensitive.

A child with Sensory Processing that is an avoider will become overstimulated because they are sensitive to what is around them and will feel everything much more intense then others. Sensory avoiders will avoid sensory input. 


A sensory seeker will is the opposite and we feel under stimulated and will seek out sensory input. Sensory seekers will not react to the environment around them like an avoider does. Sensory seekers crave and want sensory input. 

Types of Sensory Input 

We have 8 sensory systems, they all contribute to our daily functioning and engagement with the world. Some of these systems are more ‘known’ and others may be new for you. 

1. Tactile-what you feel (touch). 

2. Visual-what you see. 

3. Auditory-what you hear. 

4. Gustation-what you taste. 

5. Olfactory-what you smell. 

6. Proprioception-body awareness. This is the ability to know where you are without using your sight. If you close your eyes and touch your nose successfully that’s because of your proprioceptive system. 

7. Vestibular-where you are in space, this input comes from movement and head position. Your vestibular system lets you know if you are upright or hanging upside down. 

8. Interoception-how you ‘feel’. This is input that lets you know you are hungry, thirsty, need to use the restroom, that your heart is beating fast, that you are hot or cold, etc. 

It’s the input we receive from these 8 systems constantly during our day that our brain is receiving and interpreting. Some people may be under-responsive to input, others may be over-responsive. 

Hypersensitive and Hyposensitive 

It is not uncommon for someone to be both hypersensitive and hyposensitive at the same time. 

This can change day-to-day as well. For example, someone may be hypersensitive to touch and struggle with the texture of their clothing but be hyposensitive to proprioceptive input and seek out more rough play and heavy work where their muscles are being engaged.

Hypersensitive means that you are more sensitive (over-responsive) to input than others. This may look like covering your ears when a vacuum is turned on because it is too loud. Or struggling with the feeling of your clothing, even to the point of not being able to wear clothes. At times we refer to people that are hypersensitive as avoiders, they want to avoid certain types of input because they are more sensitive to them.  

Hyposensitive means that you are less sensitive (under-responsive) to input than others. Meaning you may want and crave more input to feel regulated and fulfilled. This may look like constantly moving, spinning, jumping, or playing rough with others. At times we refer to people that are hyposensitive as seekers.

Sensory Processing Disorder Seeker SPD

- loves movement
- enjoys being rough and active
- loves a stimulating environment
- craves salty, chewy and crunchy foods
- enjoys motion, crashes into walls or floors
- loves running and jumping
- touches everything
- struggles to sit still
- has a poor attention span
- climbs too high or climbs on everything
- crashes into people and everything
- licks or chews everything
- doesn't feel pain like most do
- engages in messy play

Sensory Processing Disorder Avoider SPD 

- covers ears from noise
- avoids messy play or messy hands
- dislikes anyone too close to them
- doesn't like climbing and swinging
- refuses bath time
- complains about smells
- struggles to brush their teeth
- feels pain more than most do
- walks on toes
- dislikes water on their face
- mentions lights are too bright
- doesn't like tags or seams on clothes
- avoids hugs and kisses
- struggles with food textures

A Seeker loves movement, being rough and active, loves a stimulating environment, craves salty, spicy foods or extra chewy and crunchy foods, enjoys motion, crashes into walls or floors, loves running and jumping, needs to touch everything, cant sit still, and has poor attention span. Seekers also climb too high, climbing on everything, crashes into people and everything, licks and chews on everything, eating too much, doesn't feel pain like most do, over stuff there mouths, dump out boxes full of stuff and look through everything, engages in messy play with play dough mud, shaving cream and they're loud with little volume control.

An avoider is the opposite as a seeker. They avoid. Picky eaters, covers ears from noise, wont wear shoes, avoids mess and messy hands, dislikes anyone too close to them, doesn't like climbing and swinging, refuses bath time and swimming activities including water, complains about smells, doesn't like to brush teeth, complains about normal lighting that its too bright, over responsive to pain and feel everything more than they should, doesn't like tags and seams on clothes and avoids hugs.