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Q&A: Dangerous Sensory-Seeking Behaviors?


I have a daughter who is almost 3 years old and has been diagnosed with autism and Sensory Processing Disorder. I have been told she is a sensory seeker and loves thrill and pain. It really scares me because I find her on top of window sills, dressers, TV, and even our second story balcony! It has been very difficult to find an OT. How can I stop her from engaging in these dangerous behaviors?


Safety issues like these need to be handled in two ways:

1. Sensory: We need to recognize that she is not trying to be naughty. Rather, she is simply trying to get the intense sensory input her brain needs. Try setting up your house to allow safe ways for her to get high-intensity sensory input. Here are some ideas:

  • Get rid of her bed frame and put her mattress directly on the floor. Encourage her to jump/roll/crash all she wants with limited safety concerns.
  • Use a large ball for sensory input. It can be a therapy ball, an exercise ball, or just an extra-large play ball. Encourage her to sit on it while watching TV or lay on it while rolling forward to push off with her hands, bounce on it, etc.
  • Play Follow the Leader or set up obstacle courses for her to go through. Encourage as much crawling and rolling as possible. For example, she can crawl under the table, roll across the carpet, crab walk across the tile, slither under the coffee table, somersault across the couch cushions, etc.

2. Behavioral: Even though she isn’t deliberately trying to be naughty, she still needs to learn that dangerous behaviors are simply unacceptable. Find a consequence that works for her, maybe time-out. Let me know if you need other ideas for consequences. The next time you see her thinking about or heading toward a dangerous situation, remind her of acceptable alternatives (e.g., jumping on her mattress) and possible consequences if she follows through.

Above all, remember that children like your daughter need constant adult supervision. This can be very tiring for a parent. Look into respite care services or college students who need volunteer hours to help you out and provide much-needed breaks.

I hope you can find an OT to partner with you on this journey.

Best Wishes,