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1.5. Give examples of behaviours that may suggest an individual is hyposensitive or hypersensitive.

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Hyposensitivity and hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli are common in individuals with conditions like autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These sensitivities can manifest in a variety of behaviours, some examples of which have been provided below:

Behaviours Suggestive of Hyposensitivity (Under-Responsiveness)

  • Seeking Sensory Input: Individuals who are hyposensitive often seek additional sensory stimulation. This can include behaviours like spinning, rocking, or hand-flapping to stimulate the vestibular system, or enjoying tight hugs or heavy blankets for deep pressure.
  • High Pain Threshold: They might not react to situations that would typically cause pain or discomfort, such as bumps, cuts, or extreme temperatures.
  • Fascination with Bright Lights, Loud Noises, or Strong Tastes: A preference for or indifference to intense sensory experiences, such as staring at bright lights, listening to very loud music, or favoring extremely spicy or flavorful foods.
  • Difficulty with Fine Motor Tasks: Due to reduced body awareness and proprioceptive feedback, they might struggle with tasks like buttoning shirts or handwriting.
  • Unawareness of Being Touched or Called: They may not respond to light touch or their name being called, which can sometimes be mistaken for hearing problems or inattention.

Behaviours Suggestive of Hypersensitivity (Over-Responsiveness)

  • Avoidance of Sensory Input: Individuals who are hypersensitive may avoid situations with overwhelming sensory input. This can include covering ears to block out sounds, avoiding bright lights, or not wanting to be touched.
  • Distress in Crowds or Noisy Environments: Overwhelm or distress in busy, loud environments like supermarkets, schools, or social events due to the intensity of auditory and visual stimuli.
  • Selective Eating Due to Texture or Flavour: They may have a very restricted diet, avoiding foods with certain textures, flavours, or temperatures.
  • Emotional or Physical Responses to Sensory Input: This can include extreme reactions to seemingly minor stimuli, such as crying, anger, or physical discomfort when exposed to certain textures, sounds, or lights.
  • Clothing Discomfort: Discomfort or distress caused by certain types of clothing due to their texture or fit, leading to preferences for softer or looser garments.

Summary

It’s important to recognise that these behaviours can vary greatly from person to person. Understanding and respecting individual sensory preferences and needs is crucial in supporting those with sensory processing differences. In cases of significant impact on daily life, interventions such as occupational therapy with a sensory integration approach can be beneficial.

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