IS YOUR CHILD HYPOSENSITIVE?

27 Dec

Does any of the following sound recognizable?

  • Your child is mouthing the toys (and not even toys)
  • Your child is licking tables, doors, windows
  • Your child is biting you and other people
  • Your child ignores speech
  • Your child stares at lights
  • Your child brings everything close to his eyes
  • Your child insists on watching TV for 6 hours a day (and sometimes even during the night).

If you answered YES to any of the above questions, chances are your child is hyposensitive to at least some types of stimulation. What is hyposensitivity?  Well, sensations is something all humans crave.  We enjoy delicious food. We enjoy music. We enjoy nice, warm lighting. We enjoys soft clothing. We enjoy hugs and kisses. So do hyposensitive children. Only they need much more stimulation to feel satiated! Where a light touch would do for you, they crave deep pressure.  Your mouth craves only food, a hyposensitive child needs to lick all shapes and textures (and even sometimes bite them).  You watch TV because you enjoy the show. A hyposensitive child enjoys the sounds and lights coming from the box, and she does not care what the show is about.

Something like this looks ultimately satisfying for a hyposensitive child:

What are the consequences of hyposensitivity?

Hyposensitive children frequently look disoriented.

Where we perceive shapes, they see only contours. Where we hear speech, they hear a subdued and undecipherable acoustic waive.  They often appear aggressive – with all their biting and touching, while they simply crave, crave, crave sensations. Just like all human beings. Only so much stronger.  They climb and jump, they appear not to have any sense of fear, and sometimes cause themselves a real injury.
Many hyposensitive children are diagnosed with Autism.  To me, the label is not important. What is important, is the correct understanding of how your child sees the world and how you can help her to mange this world given her unique perception.

Case Study

Jack (the name is changed), an adorable 2 year old, was brought to me for a routine psychological evaluation. He already has been diagnosed with Autism and the parents were looking for a second opinion. Initially, Jack behaved as a typical autistic child. He did not show us his big brown eyes. He ignored his name. He wandered around the room aimlessly and threw himself on the floor repeatedly without any apparent reason (apart form his vestibular hyposensitivity of course). That was until my co-evaluator, a wonderful Occupational Therapist Irene showed him her sensory toys. He loved the giant sensory Turtle and it’s vibrating hug! That was no light touch!

This is not Jack of course, but this is the turtle:

Giant Vibrating Turtle

And after that satisfying hug, he spent several more minutes squeezing and pressing the sensory ball.

Super Mondo Inside-Out Ball

As he played with the toys, Irene started massaging his back.  As she pressed deeper and deeper, Jack was moving closer and closer to her.  He loved deep pressure. It was soothing. It was calming. It was the sensation that he craved! As she slightly threw him up in the air and caught him, he laughed and returned her hug. More then thirty minutes into the evaluation, he looked into her face and returned her hug! Finally we started seeing his big brown eyes.  While she continued massaging his back, he built a two block tower and completed the three piece puzzle, placing those large circles, squares and triangles turned out not to be a problem at all!  We started saying his name loudly and firmly, and his response improved dramatically.  By the end of the evaluation he flirted with me and with Irene (a gorgeous blond, by the way).  It took us more than 30 minutes to satiate his constant craving, which soothed him and helped him focus on the activities and relate to us.  By the end of the evaluation we hardly recognized the child we met an hour ago.

So, what can you do to help your hyposensitive child?

The answer is simple. You need to satiate his/her craving for sensation (she simply doesn’t get enough from regular stimulation). But you need to do it in a smart way! TV won’t do it. Your baby doesn’t learn how to relate to people from all that flickering.  Your baby doesn’t pay attention to speech. Your baby doesn’t need to respond to TV in any way. She can be completely passive, not understanding a thing, and the stimulation is still coming to her. It flickers and flickers and flickers! And it teaches her NOT to respond. NOT to relate. NOT to learn. Since, as opposed to human interactions, TV keeps “talking to you” even if you don’t respond, don’t understand and don’t relate! If anything, it teaches you how NOT to communicate! And it’s tiring for your child (even if she demands it!) The same carousel of lights and sounds keeps replaying in her dreams, and if your little one wakes up at night, you know what is responsible! So, yes, turn off TV, but not immediately.  BEFORE you turn it of, you need to OFFER something to your child to do instead. Something, that will satisfy her craving for sensations. Get her toys! Get her those special sensory toys!
There are plenty of places on line, but e-specialneeds.com is my favourite! (No, I’m not connected to them in any way!).  And once the toys are in your home, turn off TV.

Offer her a sensory ball. Offer her a rocking horse (kids with hyposensitive vestibular system love it!). Offer her toys that light up and toys that vibrate.  Then play with her. Talk to her loudly, slowly, clearly. Talk to her firmly. Talk to her as she plays. Talk to her about those toys. Show her how to use them. Be almost loud, be clear, be in her face! Remember, hyposensitive kids need a lot more stimulation to get information in! Get your hands on her back, arms and shoulders and massage her. With a hyposensitive child deep pressure is the best! And then throw her up in the air and catch her, and as you catch her look her directly in the eyes! Swing her back and forth. And when she asks for more, say to her, say “more”, “more”, “more”, say it loudly and clearly and give her a chance to repeat. If she doesn’t repeat right away, don’t give up, she will do it next time!  Do this type of sensory playing for 30 minutes, no interruptions please! This type of playing will take a lot of your energy, you will feel drained, but this will be worth it. You will discover a connection with your child, you will give her exactly what she needs! And when the thirty minutes is over, please do not turn on TV just yet. Instead, get dressed and go outside.  Swings and slides and climbing walls are exactly what your child needs! Only this time, please, continue talking with her. Be loud! Be clear! Yell as you run from her, and yell as your run after he. Yell words, phrases, and sentences but be very clear.  And sometimes yell just sounds, and invite her to repeat.  That’s another hour of sensory playing for your child. And if the weather is not cooperating, find inside plagrounds. Remember, her vestibular system needs sensations! And chances are, so does her visual, motor and audio systems.  You can finish your day with 10-15 minutes of playing on the computer. Yes, your child will love it! And although not ideal, computer games are better then TV watching.  At least, they are interactive and require a response from your child. And there are some educational and even sensory games as well. Repeat the same routine the next day, and add a musical toy (a keyboard is perfect) to stimulate your child’ audio system. And please, remember to sing to her, loudly and clearly (you don’t really need to stay in tune). Talk to her between the songs. And as you sing and talk, look into her eyes!  If you do this four times a week (and leave TV watching for those two days, when, as every parent, you recuperate), you will be amazed with how fast your hyposensitive child improves.

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25 Responses to “IS YOUR CHILD HYPOSENSITIVE?”

  1. Amanda Peterson May 10, 2015 at 3:33 am #

    My 4 year old has every symptom for the hyposensitivity disorder he lucks everything regular talking does not work yelling ir loud speech even just talking I have to be loud and direct he gets detracted easy and loves kisses after kisses after kisses and hugs he asks for spanking and is rough when not meaning to be with our dog and his little brother his speech is a bit behind but got him on abc mouse and I do it with him has been helping better does it sound like he may have it…is it a sign of autism. His grandma refuses to hear It because she thinks I’m calling him stupid which is not the case he is so smart and affectionate!please help stressed mommy…

    • Amanda Peterson May 10, 2015 at 3:35 am #

      He also enjoys spinning and jumping until he’s dizzy. He has a high pain tolerence!

    • Dr. Eugenia Steingold May 10, 2016 at 9:05 pm #

      Amanda, my apologies for responding to you only now.
      Most of the messages from this blog went directly to my spam folder. Only now I re-adjusted my filters.
      I hope, my response will still find you.
      Thank you very much for your message.
      It sounds like your son has severe sensory-integration issues, which is often connected to Autism (or ADHD).
      I think the best approach is to take him to a developmental neurologist or psychologist and make sure he is appropriately evaluated and diagnosed.
      With the right therapy (e.g., ABA or Floortime) many children move along the spectrum. Many of them become fully verbal and attend mainstream schools.
      However, the right therapy is a must. Grandma doesn’t always know best. You are the mother, and you should trust your intuition (which is probably right on the money).
      I hope, you will follow through with your child’s evaluation (if you haven’t done so already). g
      Best of luck to you and son.

  2. brittney May 26, 2015 at 6:39 pm #

    Just curious if any other Hyposensitive parents out there feel that weighted vests help with their kids at school? What would you suggest for sitting activities at school?

  3. matchison89 May 10, 2016 at 8:56 pm #

    I love this!! My son is hyposensitive, after many year of doctors trying to figure out why my son was delayed in walking and now talking. We went through many hoops and now he is almost 4 he is just now getting the help he needs. People look at me crazy when i tell them he is a sensory kid and even my husband has a hard time understanding it.

    • Dr. Eugenia Steingold May 10, 2016 at 9:01 pm #

      Thank you for your response.
      Sensory-integration is frequently misunderstood and misdiagnosed.
      I hope that your boy will thrive with appropriate occupational therapy.

      • matchison89 May 12, 2016 at 5:08 pm #

        It has been a long road and and I know it will continue. We have seen an improvement with his speech and OT that he does once a week. Thank you for this article!

  4. chantelrebecca1 June 24, 2016 at 5:13 am #

    My 4 year old son is hyposensitive. We recently enrolled him in several activities including swimming lessons and karate and gymnastics at a gym especially for little kids. The swimming is going great. He has learned quickly and seems like he can really focus and listen. However, the other classes are more difficult. Whenever the instructor has them sitting and listening he gets distracted and runs off to run across the balance beam or hang from the bars. He also has a lot of trouble not touching other children he likes. Is there anything you can recommend to help him focus and not touch other children all the time? This is an environment where I can watch but am not allowed to be actively involved. Thank you.

    • Dr. Eugenia Steingold June 27, 2016 at 10:39 pm #

      hi Rebecca, thanks a lot for your response. It’s a long road with hyposensitive kids. But the most important thing is that at his young age, a hyposensitive child should be placed in a very small group. There is so much excitement and stimulation in the gym, that it’s hard for your boy to resist and not touch everything around him. He is touching kids to get additional sensory stimulation as well.
      I think, at 4, he is not ready for gym and karate. Start with the swimming (great choice, water is excellent for him), and then, start adding other activities. Martial arts should come later in his life (not to suggest to him any unnecessary aggressive behaviors). However, after he fully adjusts to swimming and learns to respect personal space, try a team sport for him. He will learn cooperation, social skills and team work as well as get a lot of stimulation that he needs.

      • chantelrebecca1 June 28, 2016 at 9:00 pm #

        Thank you for your recommendations!

  5. Dhibu August 8, 2016 at 1:56 am #

    Very nice article. My kid is 4. 5 years and he has been going through all therapies for adhd, and only recently an evaluation threw lighy on his hyposensitivity. Your article did help me in understanding what hyposensitivity means.

    Are there any other books, videos, websites that will help me understand hyposensitivity and its therapies better?

    In my country there seems to be little awareness about this to topic. Help appreciated.

    Thanks again for the great article.

    • Dr. Eugenia Steingold September 21, 2016 at 4:10 am #

      Dhibu, thank you for reaching out. I’m glad that this article was helpful.
      You might want to start by reading “The out of sync child” by Carol Kranowitz. It’s available on Amazon.
      If after the book you want to go even deeper, I recommend reading books by Dr. Greenspan.

  6. Hina August 21, 2016 at 7:42 am #

    Gud

  7. Hina August 21, 2016 at 7:47 am #

    I m interne ot I have a client who is not only hyposensitiiv but also adhd much more dificult to do therapy for him he doesnt sit.child is abut 10 yr old

    • Dr. Eugenia Steingold September 21, 2016 at 4:12 am #

      Hi Hina, If your client would’t sit still, he needs a gross motor stimulation. If he is jumping and spinning, then he also needs to stimulate his vestibule system.
      You might want to get a large bouncing ball and allow him to bounce on it for several minutes at the beginning of the session and then use it as a reinforcement.
      With more advanced and well coordinated hyperactive kids, a simple jumping rope becomes a great reinforcement.

  8. Sumit September 7, 2016 at 2:36 pm #

    Hi, My son is 2 years old. He loves to see the wheels of cars even spins the wheels of his toys or tricycle, he some times stares at the light bulb, he responds to his name. He is just diagnosed with ASD. Is he hypersensitive or hypo. We live in a small city in india and have no access to any Occupational therapist. So if possible could you pls tell any Occupational therapy for him.

    • Dr. Eugenia Steingold September 21, 2016 at 4:06 am #

      Hi Sumit,
      it’s hard for me to recommend therapy for your child, since I didn’t see him. It’s a positive sign that he responds to his name. If he is staring at lights, it means, he is seeking for more sensations, so what he is getting in is probably not enough for him. You can get a small flash light and play with him, using the light. Use his interest in lights to increase your interactions and communication.
      If you want, we can have a Skype session and discuss specific details.

  9. Sherrilyn November 17, 2016 at 1:10 am #

    What do you with a three yr old that is too heavy to throw around. Does a child that NEVER SITS DOWN, runs around all day and bites people on occasion, could he be hyposensitive also ?

    • Dr. Eugenia Steingold November 17, 2016 at 2:26 am #

      Yes, he could be. You should try to have your child evaluated by an Occupational Therapist.

  10. Dee November 22, 2016 at 4:10 pm #

    Thank you very much for this wonderful and helpful article. My child, almost 3, went to the doctor’s today about his development..he’s hyposensitive..idk when I’ll have the money to send him to therapy, so meanwhile ill follow your advice and get him started right away. I hope you continue to help other people by giving them free and useful advice. Thanks again

    • Dr. Eugenia Steingold December 21, 2016 at 3:41 pm #

      Dee, thank you for your comment.
      So sorry to hear that finance is in the way of your getting the right therapy to your boy.
      You can start by getting the toys I mention on the Amazon (they are not expensive). You can also get a sensory brush and brush his entire body with it once or twice a day.
      He will like it. Good luck and Happy Holidays!

  11. Praveen December 2, 2016 at 8:42 am #

    Hi, I have a Hyposensitive 4 years boy. Could you please let me know if I can take Skype appointment. I’m from India.

  12. Kathryne Hall February 3, 2017 at 11:19 pm #

    My 7 year old son is hyposensitive but not enough to disrupt him in class and he does well in school even with 22 kids in class. He would watch video- any video- all day if possible and cannot hear anyone talking to him if a video is on. He is always moving, jumping, running, and hoots loudly when excited. He has trouble transitioning and will have a tantrum when it is time to leave and is very afraid of the dark. He does not like different food groups to touch on the plate. He is very cuddly, craves touch and is very empathetic. He was evaluated at 18 months and still found to be within the normal range. I am looking for some best practices on handling with a child who has these issues but is not severe enough to be diagnosed with SPD. It is hard to be patient with the tantrums and how hard it is for him to calm down.

    • Dr. Eugenia Steingold February 5, 2017 at 4:34 pm #

      I would recommend sensory brushing for 15 minutes in the morning.
      It will also give your son some special time with you. You can combine the brushing with simple questions about what he expects to go occur today (which classes, which tests, who he is going to see in school, any trips planned, etc). Also discuss what will happen after school. This will help him organize his mind for the day.
      In addition, please consult your pediatrician about these three supplements:
      1. Magnesium (helps children relax).
      2. B complex (especially B6 and B12), helps brain generate GABA which is inhibitory neurotransmitter.
      3. D3 – research showed that vitamin D3 (when used for prolonged period of time) reduces symptoms of ADHD, including hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
      Good Luck!

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