How to Support Auditory Avoiders

Auditory avoiders are hyperaware of sounds in their environment and tend to become overwhelmed or distracted by common, everyday noises. Avoiders often have extreme or upsetting reactions to even very mild stimulation. As a result, they can appear withdrawn or defensive and have trouble fitting in with their peers. They also frequently experience symptoms associated with anxiety disorders and engage in repetitive self-soothing behaviors. 

See below for some ways to identify and support auditory avoiders .

Auditory Avoiders May:

  • Seek out quiet or secluded environments.
  • Frequently cover their ears and react to loud or high-pitched noises as if in pain.
  • Become easily distracted by background noises others can’t detect.
  • Be bothered or extremely irritated by repetitive or specific sounds.
  • Be startled and extremely frightened by unexpected sounds.
  • Become overwhelmed and frustrated while working in loud, busy environments.
  • Engage in repetitive, self-soothing activities, such as rocking or chewing.

How to Support Your Auditory Avoider:

  • Use earplugs or headphones when needed.
  • Schedule frequent breaks and quiet times throughout the day.
  • Give advance warning of loud and unexpected sounds whenever possible.
  • Use a visual timer to indicate when unpleasant noises will end.
  • Speak clearly and stand directly in front of your child when giving directions.
  • Use a fan, white noise, or soft music to muffle background noise at bedtime.
  • Be conscious of noisy household items, such as vacuums, dryers, or buzzing lights. 
  • Create a quiet, safe space at home and include noise canceling and comforting items.
  • Work on calming strategies and develop a plan for how to exit overwhelming situations.

Keep in mind that no two children are exactly alike, and most people exhibit both seeking and avoiding behaviors from time to time. If you think your child might be suffering from sensory processing issues, you should seek a professional assessment. The STAR Institute’s Treatment Directory is a great resource that can help you find therapists, doctors, and community resources in your area.

Learn to support visual avoiders.

How to Support Visual Avoiders

Visual avoiders are highly sensitive to light, color, or patterns and tend to become overwhelmed or distracted by everyday visual input. Avoiders often have extreme or upsetting reactions to even very mild stimulation. As a result, they can appear withdrawn or defensive and have trouble fitting in with their peers. They also frequently experience symptoms associated with anxiety disorders and engage in repetitive self-soothing behaviors.

See below for ways to identify and support visual avoiders.

Visual Avoiders May:

  • Seek out dark or secluded environments.
  • Avoid messy rooms and busy, crowded spaces.
  • Frequently cover their eyes or hide their heads under pillows or clothing.
  • React strongly or as if in pain to bright, strobing, or fluorescent light.
  • Perceive dim, normal, or natural as much brighter than it actually is.
  • Be bothered or distracted by objects with bright, reflective, or shiny surfaces.
  • Be bothered or distracted by objects with spinning, flashing, or moving lights.
  • Prefer clothing and toys with muted and simple shapes, colors, and patterns.

How to Support You Visual Avoider:

  • Avoid toys and games with flashing or blinking lights.
  • Keep curtains or blinds closed whenever possible.
  • Wear sunglasses, tinted glasses, or hats when needed.
  • Give advance warning of bright or unexpected light whenever possible.
  • Be conscious of colors and patterns in toys, décor, and clothing.
  • Replace bright overhead lights with dimmable floor, table, or desk lamps.
  • Be mindful of clutter, reflective surfaces, and lights from electronics or appliances.
  • Work on calming strategies and develop a plan for how to exit overwhelming situations.

Keep in mind that no two children are exactly alike, and most people exhibit both seeking and avoiding behaviors from time to time. If you think your child might be suffering from sensory processing issues, you should seek a professional assessment. The STAR Institute’s Treatment Directory is a great resource that can help you find therapists, doctors, and community resources in your area.

How to Support Tactile Avoiders

Tactile avoiders are highly sensitive to touch or temperature and tend to become overwhelmed or distracted by everyday tactile input. Avoiders often have extreme or upsetting reactions to even very mild stimulation. As a result, they can appear withdrawn or defensive and have trouble fitting in with their peers. They also frequently experience symptoms associated with anxiety disorders and engage in repetitive self-soothing behaviors.

See below for some ways to identify and support tactile avoiders.

Tactile Avoiders May:

  • Avoid toys, clothing, or food with specific textures.
  • Dislike being touched, hugged, or kissed, even by parents.
  • Avoid getting dirty and avoid playing in sand, dirt, or grass.
  • Dislike their hair or skin being wet and avoid swimming and bathing.
  • Refuse to wear tight, scratchy, or uncomfortable clothing with seams or tags.
  • Avoid play with other children and constantly worry about being touched or bumped.
  • Become anxious in crowded spaces or when standing even somewhat close to others.
  • Have a low pain threshold and respond to even light touch as if in pain.

How to Support Your Tactile Avoider:

  • Remove tags from clothing and turn uncomfortable items inside out.
  • Put long hair up in a towel or hair tie when bathing or swimming.
  • Buy compression or athletic clothing to wear under loose or scratchy items.
  • Use gloves or tools to engage with new or unpleasant textures.
  • Encourage low-contact outdoor games, such as racing, tag, or tug-of-war.
  • Introduce new foods slowly and in the preferred texture, such as mashed or crunchy.
  • Warn family and friends ahead of time that hugging and touching is not desired.

Keep in mind that no two children are exactly alike, and most people exhibit both seeking and avoiding behaviors from time to time. If you think your child might be suffering from sensory processing issues, you should seek a professional assessment. The STAR Institute’s Treatment Directory is a great resource that can help you find therapists, doctors, and community resources in your area.

How to Support Olfactory Avoiders

Olfactory avoiders are highly sensitive to smells and tend to become overwhelmed or distracted by new, strong, or particular scents. Avoiders often have extreme or upsetting reactions to even very mild stimulation. As a result, they can appear withdrawn or defensive and have trouble fitting in with their peers. They also frequently experience symptoms associated with anxiety disorders and engage in repetitive self-soothing behaviors.

See below for some ways to identify and support olfactory avoiders.

Olfactory Avoiders May:

  • Complain about smells that are very faint or unnoticed by others.
  • Hold their noses or gag when encountering strong smells.
  • Refuse to eat foods with strong, new, or specific smells.
  • Avoid using public restrooms or eating in public spaces.

How to Support Your Olfactory Avoider:

  • Minimize the use of air fresheners and artificial scents in the home.
  • Be conscious of strong cooking smells and scents in perfumes, lotions, and soaps.
  • Use natural or mild cleaning products and keep rooms well ventilated.
  • Use a mild, comforting scent to “refresh” after a negative experience.

Keep in mind that no two children are exactly alike, and most people exhibit both seeking and avoiding behaviors from time to time. If you think your child might be suffering from sensory processing issues, you should seek a professional assessment. The STAR Institute’s Treatment Directory is a great resource that can help you find therapists, doctors, and community resources in your area.

How to Support Proprioceptive Avoiders

Proprioceptive avoiders are highly sensitive to movement and pressure tend to become overwhelmed or distracted by physical contact. Avoiders often have extreme or upsetting reactions to even very mild stimulation. As a result, they can appear withdrawn or defensive and have trouble fitting in with their peers. They also frequently experience symptoms associated with anxiety disorders and engage in repetitive self-soothing behaviors.

See below for some ways to identify and support proprioceptive avoiders.

Proprioceptive Avoiders May:

  • Avoid physical contact with others.
  • Appear very timid around peers and avoid physical play.
  • Refuse to play around slides, swings, and other playground equipment.
  • Become anxious in crowded spaces or when standing even somewhat close to others.
  • Be unable to properly assess risk in their physical environment. For example, they may believe they can fall into the small gap between the floor and an elevator.

How to Support Your Proprioceptive Avoider:

  • Warn family and friends ahead of time that hugging and touching is not desired.
  • Be attentive and comforting around playground equipment and other children.
  • Give verbal cues regarding your surroundings and properly contextualize the risks. (“There is a gap in the floor by the elevator. It is smaller than your foot. You cannot fall in. Let’s step over it together.”)

Keep in mind that no two children are exactly alike, and most people exhibit both seeking and avoiding behaviors from time to time. If you think your child might be suffering from sensory processing issues, you should seek a professional assessment. The STAR Institute’s Treatment Directory is a great resource that can help you find therapists, doctors, and community resources in your area.

How to Support Interoceptive Avoiders

Interoceptive avoiders are highly sensitive to internal bodily cues and tend to become overwhelmed by physical sensations. Avoiders often have extreme or upsetting reactions to even very mild stimulation. As a result, they can appear withdrawn or defensive and have trouble fitting in with their peers. They also frequently experience symptoms associated with anxiety disorders and engage in repetitive self-soothing behaviors.

See below for some ways to identify and support interoceptive avoiders.

Interoceptive Avoiders May:

  • Have disproportionately strong directions to normally bodily cues.
  • Constantly feel they are hungry, thirsty, or need to use the bathroom.
  • Feel pain more intensely or for a longer duration than others.

How to Support Your Proprioceptive Avoider:

  • Treat even very minor injuries as if they are substantial. Remember, they feel serious.
  • Use the bathroom or have a small snack before each new activity or transition, such as getting into the car or going to bed.

Keep in mind that no two children are exactly alike, and most people exhibit both seeking and avoiding behaviors from time to time. If you think your child might be suffering from sensory processing issues, you should seek a professional assessment. The STAR Institute’s Treatment Directory is a great resource that can help you find therapists, doctors, and community resources in your area.

How to Support Olfactory Seekers

Olfactory seekers are desensitized to smells in their environment and crave sensory stimulation via very strong, specific, or unusual scents. Seekers may seem to need constant stimulation. Seekers may seem to need constant stimulation. However, they tend to become more deregulated as they take in more input. Many seekers experience symptoms associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), such low impulse control, inability to focus, and behavioral problems.

See below for some ways to identify and support olfactory seekers.

Olfactory Seekers May:

  • Actively smell everything, even things with unpleasant odors.
  • Prefer meals or specific foods with new or very strong smells.

How to Support Your Vestibular Seeker:

  • Encourage safe smelling of objects, such as flowers, candles, or scented markers.
  • Use calming scents, such as lavender or rosemary, to help calm down before bedtime.
  • Prepare a wide variety of meals and specific foods with new and pleasant smells.
  • Create smelling bottles for your child to keep in his/her bag, desk, or pocket. Simply place spices, a cotton ball covered in essential oil, or any other pleasantly smelling object inside a small (but sealed!) container.

Keep in mind that no two children are exactly alike, and most people exhibit both seeking and avoiding behaviors from time to time. If you think your child might be suffering from sensory processing issues, you should seek a professional assessment. The STAR Institute’s Treatment Directory is a great resource that can help you find therapists, doctors, and community resources in your area.

How to Support Gustatory Seekers

Gustatory seekers are desensitized to taste and crave sensory stimulation via food with strong, specific, or unusual flavors. Seekers may seem to need constant stimulation. Seekers may seem to need constant stimulation. However, they tend to become more deregulated as they take in more input. Many seekers experience symptoms associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), such low impulse control, inability to focus, and behavioral problems.

See below for some ways to identify and support gustatory seekers.

Gustatory Seekers May:

  • Seem to have an unusually large appetite.
  • Chew or suck on inedible objects, such as clothing or toys.
  • Prefer foods with specific flavors, such as sweet, bitter, or spicy.
  • Prefer foods with specific textures, such as crunchy, chewy, or mushy.
  • Enjoy the taste or texture of non-food items, such as Play-Doh, glue, or paint.

How to Support Your Vestibular Seeker:

  • Prepare a wide variety of meals and specific foods with new and interesting flavors.
  • Keep small packets of spices or flavoring handy when traveling or eating out.
  • Add orange or lemon slices to water to ensure your child is drinking enough.
  • Use gum or chewable jewelry to provide oral stimulation when not eating.
  • Find edible alternatives that have a similar taste or texture to non-food items.

Note: Contact your pediatrician immediately if you think your child is eating non-food items for any reason other than sensory issues.

Keep in mind that no two children are exactly alike, and most people exhibit both seeking and avoiding behaviors from time to time. If you think your child might be suffering from sensory processing issues, you should seek a professional assessment. The STAR Institute’s Treatment Directory is a great resource that can help you find therapists, doctors, and community resources in your area.

How to Support Visual Seekers

Visual seekers are desensitized to visual input in their environment and crave sensory stimulation via light, patterns, or moving objects. Seekers may seem to need constant stimulation. However, they tend to become more deregulated as they take in more input. Many seekers experience symptoms associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), such low impulse control, inability to focus, and behavioral problems.

See below for some ways to identify and support visual seekers.

Visual Seekers May:

  • Seek out bright or busy environments.
  • Prefer toys with bright, reflective, or shiny surfaces.
  • Be distracted by objects with spinning, flashing, or moving lights.
  • Insist on clothing and toys with specific shapes, colors, and patterns.
  • Crave screen time and prefer stimulating movies and games.

How to Support Your Visual Seeker:

  • Play with flashlights and other visually stimulating toys.
  • Encourage a healthy amount of screen time.
  • Sleep with a nightlight or calming alternative, such as a lava lamp.
  • Provide a variety of colors and patterns in toys, décor, and clothing.
  • Use visual aids while studying to help reinforce key concepts.
  • Schedule time throughout the day to watch videos or play with stimulating toys. This can be especially helpful when transitioning from one activity to another.

Keep in mind that no two children are exactly alike, and most people exhibit both seeking and avoiding behaviors from time to time. If you think your child might be suffering from sensory processing issues, you should seek a professional assessment. The STAR Institute’s Treatment Directory is a great resource that can help you find therapists, doctors, and community resources in your area.

How to Support Tactile Seekers

Tactile seekers are desensitized to touch and crave sensory stimulation via specific textures, temperatures, and deep pressure. Seekers may seem to need constant stimulation. However, they tend to become more deregulated as they take in more input. Many seekers experience symptoms associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), such low impulse control, inability to focus, and behavioral problems.

See below for some ways to identify and support tactile seekers.

Tactile Seekers May:

  • Prefer toys, clothing, and food with varied or specific textures. 
  • Constantly touch or fiddle with clothing, surfaces, or other objects.
  • Crave hugs, kisses, and other frequent or prolonged contact with others.
  • Prefer messy play and activities, such as finger paint, play doh, and sand.
  • Tend to play too rough and accidentally harm others while playing.
  • Have difficulty recognizing and respecting others’ personal boundaries.
  • Have a higher than normal pain threshold and might not notice minor injuries.

How to Support Your Tactile Seeker:

  • Use fidget spinners, stress balls, and stretchy bands.
  • Provide a variety of textures in toys, clothing, and food.
  • Play with finger paints, Play-Doh, sand, mud, and other messy objects.
  • Build a sensory table at home and include water, sand, Legos, or other textures.
  • Place Velcro, stickers, or fidgets in study areas to help your child stay focused.
  • Practice ways to respect personal space while eating, playing, lining up, etc.

Keep in mind that no two children are exactly alike, and most people exhibit both seeking and avoiding behaviors from time to time. If you think your child might be suffering from sensory processing issues, you should seek a professional assessment. The STAR Institute’s Treatment Directory is a great resource that can help you find therapists, doctors, and community resources in your area.