Sensory Responsiveness

Modulated Overreactive/
What's happening in the nervous system Nervous system inhibits sensory message, resulting in low or no arousal. Sensory input registers too little or not at all. Nervous system registers and modulates incoming sensory messages well. Nervous system facilitates sensory input message, resulting in inappropriately high arousal. Sensory input registers "too loud."
Outward behavior Child tends to be passive, doesn't react quickly to stimuli. Child tends to have low muscle tone, a flat affect (not animated), and prefer sedentary activities. Interacts age-appropriately with people and objects. Child tends to be on guard to protect against noxious sensory stimuli. She may exhibit fight-or-flight behaviors (acting out) due to perceived threats to her safety.
How a child may compensate (Behavioral compensations can be really confusing: that's why you need to do your detective work with an OT to figure out what's really going on.) Sometimes, an underaroused child may rev up his engine and be very active to keep his nervous system primed. So, paradoxically, a hyposensitive child can "look" like a hypersensitive child. Child may occasionally be over- or understimulated, especially when tired or hungry, but is usually able to tolerate a wide variety of sensory experiences without unusual reactions. Child may try to block out overwhelming sensory input by shutting down and tuning out. An overreactive child can look like a withdrawn, inactive child.

From Raising a Sensory Smart Child by Lindsey Biel, M.A., OTR/L and Nancy Peske. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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