The Under-Responsive Side of SPD, Part 1

Do you have a child who loves to crash, jump, bump, run, whirl and spin? A child who simply WILL NOT sit still?! Chances are you have a “sensory seeker”! Or do you instead have a child who is very “laid back,” sluggish, sedentary, tends to be a t.v./computer kid? In that case, chances are good you have a passive “under-responder.”

Often, when we think about Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), we tend to think of the kids who can’t stand tags in their shirts, children who are picky eaters, or kids with motion sensitivity. These are signs of over-responsiveness to sensory input and while this is definitely one type of SPD, we cannot ignore their under-responsive peers.

When we are talking about over- and under-responsivity to sensory input, we are really talking about the specific skill of sensory modulation – the ability to make sense of sensory input and respond to it appropriately in order to stay organized and focused. Sensory modulation difficulties fall under the umbrella diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder.

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Gwen Wild, OTR/L About Gwen Wild, OTR/L

Gwen Wild is the owner of Sensational Brain Co. She is also on the faculty of Summit Professional Education and travels nationwide speaking on the topic of “Creating and Implementing Effective Sensory Diets for Children and Teens.”

  • Jaclyn Ruiz

    I have two sensory sensitive kids, both girls, one age 5 and the other age two, both are sensory seekers but one is over responsive and the other is under responsive. All the tips are very helpful, and I would like more advice on how to customize a sensory diet for my girls. Maybe a go to activity list for which activities will be best suited to each girls needs. I purchased the brain works app for our Ipad, but I am not sure how to use it effectively yet. Any advice would be appreciated, thanks

  • Tara McClintick

    My kid swings from one end of the continuum to the other. He definitely has challenges with sensory modulation. I found it easiest to just have swings and trampolines in my house and yard, and lots of sensory toys around he’s free to utilize whenever he needs. At 17 though he still has major challenges, is this a life-long problem for some individuals? Thank-You for the ideas and information, I definitely can relate to this challenge! :)

  • sandy dennis

    My son is both at times he will jump and run down the hall.other days hes laying on the couch watching tv or on the computer.

  • Gwen Wild

    Sandy- Sounds like he is an under-responder who sometimes seeks the input he needs and other times doesn’t. Encourage the movement – that’s what he needs. Lots of outdoor play is the best!

  • Gwen Wild

    Tara – We typically don’t “outgrow” our sensory issues, we just learn to manage them and even make them work for us. Sensory preferences typically play a role in our career choices and our hobbies. Encourage your son to think about what types of jobs would be the best for his sensory needs. Also, for teens and adults, exercise is the best way to meet our sensory needs. Some people prefer low-stimulation forms of exercise like walking/jogging on a quiet road while others prefer high-stimulation exercise like social gyms and group classes. Help him find something that works for him. Best Wishes!

  • Gwen Wild

    Jaclyn – Email me at and I will help you figure out the BrainWorks app and give you some other resources as well. :)

  • Martianne Stanger

    I am definitely among the people challenged with an under- and over-responder so I look forward to part 2 of this to learn even more. Thank you.

  • Pingback: Sensory Strategies for Under-Responders, Part 2