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Sensory Seeking Teen?


jen3kids
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I just had an interesting talk with my dd 16.  She was picking at a callous on the palm of her hand that she made by pushing the tip of the pencil there.  She has done that since she was 14 and I thought it was a little odd, but nothing major.

 

Tonight she told me she has lots of places on her body that she presses, not because it feels good, but because it feels right.  It doesn't really hurt, it just feels right.  Places like - top of her head, base of her skull, midway down her spine, below her fingernails, below her nose, below her kneecaps, above her ankles.   

 

I quickly googled sensory seeking behaviour in teens and found a checklist of other things she does that fit into the category of sensory seeking teen are cracking knuckles, needing blankets piled on, self soothing foot rubbing on blankets in bed, need white noise to sleep, need to smell everything to decide if she can eat it.  These are the only things she does, but she does them all the time - on a scale of 1-4, she is a 4.  There are a total of 24 behaviours within the subset of Sensory Seeking, and she exhibits only 6 of them.  

 

Is this something to be concerned about, or just quirky behaviours?

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Are either of you concerned right now? Does it affect her ability to work, play, go to school, socialize, or otherwise live her daily life?

 

That's the line between "I should be concerned" and "Nope, just a quirk". If she feels it is a problem (or you, as she's a minor), or it keeps her from living normally, then it's a problem. If nobody considers it a problem and she is easily able to handle it, then probably not.

 

The one concern here is whether or not you or she thinks she'll need accommodations in work or school. If that's a possibility, then even if this isn't a problem *right now*, you might want to get something officially documented. Accommodations might be something like the right to bring in a balancing cushion to sit on rather than sitting on the chair directly, or to have that white noise machine in a dorm situation (which might mean no roommate) or, I don't know. I don't really know what accommodations she might need now or in the future, as I don't know your daughter or her situation :) I'm just trying to throw together some examples.

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I have a dd, now a teen, who has exhibited most of the signs since very young. It's never really been an issue until recently so we've not worried. Recently it's caused her to become a bit too obsessed with the cleanliness aspect of things and she told us she didn't like it. So, we're reaching out to get her help in managing things. If she never said it bothered her and we didn't see it interfering, we wouldn't worry too much about it.

Edited by Joker
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I just had an interesting talk with my dd 16.  She was picking at a callous on the palm of her hand that she made by pushing the tip of the pencil there.  She has done that since she was 14 and I thought it was a little odd, but nothing major.

 

Tonight she told me she has lots of places on her body that she presses, not because it feels good, but because it feels right.  It doesn't really hurt, it just feels right.  Places like - top of her head, base of her skull, midway down her spine, below her fingernails, below her nose, below her kneecaps, above her ankles.   

 

I quickly googled sensory seeking behaviour in teens and found a checklist of other things she does that fit into the category of sensory seeking teen are cracking knuckles, needing blankets piled on, self soothing foot rubbing on blankets in bed, need white noise to sleep, need to smell everything to decide if she can eat it.  These are the only things she does, but she does them all the time - on a scale of 1-4, she is a 4.  There are a total of 24 behaviours within the subset of Sensory Seeking, and she exhibits only 6 of them.  

 

Is this something to be concerned about, or just quirky behaviours?

 

Oh, wow to the bolded. I do ALL those things and have as long as I can remember. I don't do the pressing places on my body though. So long as it isn't interfering with her life, I don't see it as a problem. I'm a mostly functional adult. :)

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Not too long ago it occurred to my ds and I how much we smell things when we first pick them up:  mail, clothes, food, etc.   We noticed it most strikingly when we both grabbed a magazine or catalog at the same time that had just came in the mail and smelled them before reading them.  Of course we burst out laughing about how strange it was!  I also rub my feet against my blankets constantly as I fall asleep, though that's due to RLS.  I'm sure I do other things too that are sensory, but I live a completely normal life.  :)

 

 

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Everyone has different levels of sensory preference.  When those preferences interfere with daily living, either because the person restricts needed activities to avoid sensations (e.g. eating only a couple foods, or not being able to tolerate the noise in a grocery store), or because they sensory seek in ways that are dangerous disruptive to themselves or others (e.g. seeking pressure by crashing into people, seeking movement when they should be sitting still in an important meeting), then it's time to get help, but otherwise it's just a preference.

 

My kid is a sensory seeker.  He chooses activities with a lot of sensory input, such as football and snowboarding.  He piles the wasabi on his sushi like the sushi is a side dish.  He'll ride any roller coaster around.  He blasts music from his headphones.  But since he channels his sensory seeking in generally accepted ways, it isn't a disability, it's just a quirk.

 

I'm a sensory avoider.  I'd rather read a book than watch a movie. My idea of heaven is a warm bath, with no flickering candles or scented bubbles or music.  I like mild tastes, and hate things like lumps in my ice cream (who invented Rocky Road?  Was that person out of their mind?).  But I function just fine in the real world.  

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It could be sensory, yes. But there are shades of OCD perhaps there as well. Does she feel anxiety if she doesn't follow that urge?

 

If it's not interfering with her life, I would just chalk it up to quirky. However, read up on OCD so you recognize if things start to flip on her. OCD often ends up needing treatment at some point, and I think it's generally better to start that at the first sign of trouble before it's become a major pattern. If you find yourself there are some point, the OCD foundation online has lists of therapists who are trained specifically in OCD. You want to work with an expert in OCD. It's treated differently from other anxiety disorders, and so specific training matters.

Edited by sbgrace
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I have spd and did all kinds of weird stuff as a kid/teen in the same vein as whst your dd is doing.

 

I will say that its something she needs to understand, and have the words for, so that if it becomes a problem down the line, she will be able to recognize it, name it, and heal it (in whatever manner is appropriate at the time).

 

For example, things that are not a problem can quickly BECOME a problem when youre pregnant or post partum. Or super stressed or whatever.

 

In the meantime, though, a hypothetical possible problem in the future is NOT a problem now! I would just talk about it casualy a bit and check in with her every now and again for the time being.

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My older dd had many, many sensory issues when she was little, but they seemed to go away for many years.  They re-emerged when she was a teenager, and started interfering with her life.  When she was 16, I had her evaluated by an occupational therapist.  The assessment was a computer survey of about 200 questions that she and I went through together.  The results definitely showed that she had both sensory defensive and sensory seeking behaviors that were preventing her from living her life to the fullest.  

 

She went through six months of occupational therapy with two different therapists.  The first used several techniques to help her overcome some of her sensitivities.  The second, who also happened to be sensory defensive, helped her learn practical coping strategies to deal with the issues that remained.  Dd is almost 20 now, living away at college, and doing very well.  

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Our pediatrician told us if it was a compulsion and Ds did not feel like he could stop, be socially approproiate, or continue to focus without doing the various wierd things that he does, then I needed to worry. If it was escallating, I needed to worry. If it was so awkward that Mrs. Normal at the grocery store was beginning to gawk, I needed to worry.

 

Those have been really good markers for me to keep in perspective.

 

The pediatrician also mentioned that some kids do begin to cut if they use the sensory stuff to self soothe. When the emotional stuff becomes overwhelming, they escalate to self harm. All sensory kids were not cutters, or even very many sensory kids, but those who did cut often were sensory seeking in their youth. He wanted me to be aware so that it could be stopped early of it developed.

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