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Sensory/Stress Response in Dysregulated Students K-5

Amy M. Starkey, COTA/L, CTP-E, CYMHS

January 15, 2024

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Question

How do sensory and stress responses manifest in dysregulated students, and what are the distinguishing characteristics of "sensory seekers" and "sensory avoidants"?

Answer

In dysregulated students, sensory and stress responses often manifest in two distinct types: "sensory seekers" and "sensory avoidants," or a combination of both. Sensory seekers typically exhibit hyper-aroused behaviors, characterized by impulsivity, heightened emotional states (such as anger), a sense of being 'out of control' or disruptive, and poor behavioral choices. These students may display aggression or combativeness as a result of their heightened sensory seeking. On the other hand, sensory avoidants present hypo-aroused characteristics, appearing unmotivated, sluggish, or like a 'bump on a log.' They may withdraw and shut down, attempting to flee from their surroundings, and often face challenges in maintaining attention.

It's crucial to recognize that both sensory seekers and sensory avoidants are dysregulated, struggling with the self-regulation necessary for effective learning. The outward "acting out" behavior observed in these students serves as a signal of the nervous system's need for self-regulation, emphasizing the importance of addressing sensory and stress responses to create an environment conducive to learning and emotional well-being.

This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, Yoga Tools for Children K-5: Mindful Movement for Pediatric and School-Based Therapists by Amy M. Starkey, COTA/L, CTP-E, CYMHS.


amy m starkey

Amy M. Starkey, COTA/L, CTP-E, CYMHS

Amy M. Starkey has worked in pediatric OT for 25 years, specializing in sensory processing, trauma, and school-based OT. She is the founder of YOGA-2-GO, a children’s yoga & mindfulness organization specializing in therapeutic yoga, SEL, and mindfulness for children of all ages & ability levels. She’s combined her expertise as a children’s yoga instructor, a certified Qigong instructor, a certified trauma practitioner, and a certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA/L) to help children of all ages and ability levels become ‘educated, encouraged, and empowered’!

 

 


Related Courses

QiKIDS™ - Qigong for Pediatrics
Presented by Amy M. Starkey, COTA/L, CTP-E, CYMHS
Recorded Webinar

Presenter

Amy M. Starkey, COTA/L, CTP-E, CYMHS
Course: #4866Level: Introductory1 Hour
  'very informative'   Read Reviews
In “QiKids: Qigong for Pediatrics”, participants will learn gentle, effective mind & body-based movements, breaths and acupressure points proven to decrease stress, calm anxiety, improve mental focus, boost immune system function, and build resiliency. Qigong is the perfect therapeutic movement exercise for both clinicians and clients wanting to create a regular mindfulness practice that supports mental, physical, and emotional health and well-being.

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  'The instructor was amazing at presenting the information for this course'   Read Reviews
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