The five types
Below we explain the five different sensory processing ‘types’. You can recognize a type by looking at a person’s behavior, because this will give clues as to their way of sensory processing. We call that: looking through the SPi-glasses (Sensory Processing-glasses). With the SPi-glasses on you can see that some people have problems processing sensory input.
The four types -the ones which deviate from the first type, which is neutral- were developed by Winnie Dunn (Dunn’s model of sensory processing, 1997). She was the first to describe these four different profiles of sensory processing.
You can download and use an overview of characteristics (with reference to the source). In this document you will also find an addition of behavior that you can see in people with intellectual disabilities when they are under or overstimulated. Download here the List of type of behaviors of the four types.
Too little or too much sensory input
The first 4 types all have a different way of dealing with their problematic sensory processing, they differ from the average (the average of neutral sensory processing). You may differ by either being aware of too little sensory input (much of this input is labeled as ‘boring’ by the brain) or being aware of far too much input (far too much input is labeled ‘VIP’ and ‘interesting’ ). You can see from behavior whether people are looking for input, avoid it or actually do nothing about receiving the wrong amount of input.
To make the differences clearer, we have created quite extreme types. With practice you will start seeing the nuances. Mixed types do also occur, so you may recognize yourself or people around you in multiple types.
Click on the different tabs to the right to view all sensory types.
Underresponsive and Active
Busy, spontaneous, exuberant/chaotic, requires a lot of attention, goes on and on. (is actively trying to get more input)
Because too little input is passed on to the brain’s cortex, this person does not receive enough signals that something is wrong or something needs to be done. As a result, this person remains somewhat sluggish or sleepy. As long as he doesn’t do anything about it, that is. But that is not the case with this first type, because he certainly does something about the lack of input:
The underresponsive and active person looks for additional sensory input. This person seeks input that lasts longer, is more intense and is repeated more often. So they don’t tire of input quickly; because sensory input─ lots of input─ is just what they need!
What is typical?
- would like more intense input and above all many new experiences;
- is ‘always on the go’;
- likes to visit or go to parties, festivals, the fair;
- doesn’t much like routines and rules, always the same is boring;
- likes bright colors and spicy flavors;
- is very enthusiastic and impulsive, sees possibilities everywhere;
- prefers to learn with the radio on and moving around;
- finds it difficult to attune to others, notices their needs less;
- gets impatient when things are calm, gets bored easily;
- is sometimes so active that concentrating on one thing is difficult;
- cannot function well in an environment with little input;
- needs to be called to task, is often busy with other things.
Click on the image to download an overview of the different types.