Living With Autism: Sensory Seeker vs Sensory Avoider

Posted by Jenn Eggert

Living With Autism: Sensory Seeker vs Sensory Avoider

Living With Autism: Sensory Seeker vs Sensory Avoider

Do you wonder what living with autism is like?

First, I want you to remember that autism is a spectrum and no two people are alike. So how people react to the world around them is very different. We also have two general types: one is the sensory seeker and the other is known as the sensory avoider.

What does the sensory seeker mean?

“Seeker” describes a person who enjoys certain sensory input and will go out of their way to find it. Hence the word seeker. For us, Ryley seeks tactile input. She loves all soft and squishy textures. Some people seek certain sounds, food, textures, visual input and so much more.

What does the sensory avoider mean?

Now when I say avoider, I mean a person who will go out of the way to avoid certain sensory things. Have you ever seen the cute facebook videos of babies being put on grass for the first time and they do everything to avoid it? Being an avoider is very much like that. They will do whatever it takes to stay away from the offending input.

There is always some form of sensory input, such as sights, smells, sounds, tastes and textures. Unfortunately some are more overwhelming than others and they cannot be avoided. Are you aware of those loud hand dryers and flushing sound in the public restroom? Eventually, Ryley and I will go in and use a sticky note to cover the toilet sensor. When she would walk out of the stall, I would pull it off and toss it. Then, she would wash her hands and run away from the hand dryers.

Now people always ask, “Can you be a seeker and an avoider at the same time?” My answer is yes. Ryley seeks deep pressure but avoids smells and loud noises. It is actually very common to have a child who is both a seeker and an avoider.

After understanding what it’s like living with autism, how can we help our children?

It means we as parents need to be more understanding, gentler, kinder, more open minded and so much more.We need to always be alert for signs of a dreaded meltdown. We need to be prepared to leave an event at the drop of the hat. We need to forgive them when things get rough and they attempt to hurt us verbally or physically. We need to always be prepared to advocate for them and their needs. Sadly, our job as parents never end. We always need to be on the alert.

Children with autism already have trouble navigating this difficult and overwhelming world. On top of the sensory issues, social cues and understanding emotions are both challenging for them as well. Large groups or events can cause severe anxiety. Some children with autism are non-verbal, which makes them even harder to communicate with others.

Remember autistic children turn out to become autistic adults.

Early intervention and therapy can help your loved one to live their best life. It may not be the life you imagined for them. But to me, as long as they are happy who really cares if they make 6 figures or go to a day program. As long as they are happy and fulfilled, that is success in my books.



is a 35-year-old mother of two. Jenn's daughter, Ryley was disagonsed with autism at the age of 4. Jenn is also the host of our weekly Facebook Live show, Ask an Autism Mom.

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