Sensory Seeker: Is the Problem Sensory Modulation or Discrimination?


This LiveTalk will break down sensory seeking behaviors and look at the possible sensory system challenges behind them.


Featuring: Sarah Sawyer, MA, OTR/L
originally recorded February 3, 2020

LiveTalks are hour long audio-only podcasts. This LiveTalk is part of the Complex Cases: Applying Clinical Reasoning to Challenging Clients bundle. Click to preregister for the 2020 series!

Description: This month we will continue to explore the sensory seeker with a case involving a child that puts everything in their mouth, has a constant need for movement and will not use their hands for activities like cutting their food. Come join us as we break down these behaviors and look at the possible sensory system challenges behind them. We will explore, and further define, the various language behind the term “seeker” and sensory modulation and discrimination used by different frames of reference, such as the SPD model and Ayres Sensory Integration. We will continue to explore various clinical reasoning models, as well.

Learning Objectives
By the end of this LiveTalk listeners will be able to:

  1. Identify the difference between the SPD and ASI language for defining a “seeker”.
  2. Define sensory modulation and discrimination
  3. Distinguish between behaviors characteristic of modulation or discrimination challenges.

Course Level: Introductory. There are no prerequisites for this course.

Suitable For: Occupational Therapists, OT Assistants

Domain: Client Factors
Process: Evaluation

Contact Hours: This course is worth 1.0 contact hour or 0.1 AOTA CEUs.

Completion Requirements: To receive contact hours for this course you must listen to the recorded LiveTalk in its entirety, and complete the accompanying assessment.

About the Speakers: Ms. Sawyer is the Clinical Director at OTA The Koomar Center and is responsible for overseeing all therapeutic activities. She has extensive clinical experience working with children and families. Sarah began her career in the United Kingdom working with children, adolescents and adults with Sensory Processing Dysfunction (SPD) across home, school and clinic-based settings. In 2003 Sarah was awarded the Elizabeth Casson Trust Scholarship from Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK, to attend Tufts University to complete her post-professional masters. Her thesis focused on therapists’ clinical reasoning. Sarah has broad experience evaluating and treating individuals with SPD and has specialized training in Listening Therapies, Trauma and Visual Vestibular difficulties. She has a particular interest in working with individuals on the Autism Spectrum and has specialized training in DIR® Floortime Approach. As well as overseeing the day-to-day running of the clinic, Sarah regularly trains and presents to educational facilities and other professionals broadening understanding of Sensory Processing Dysfunction and Sensory Integration Therapy.

ADA/Section 504: If you require special accommodations, please contact the Spiral Foundation at or (617) 969-4410 ext. 231.

Continuing Education:

Occupational Therapy Practitioners/ Occupational Therapy Assistants:  The Spiral Foundation is an Approved Provider of Continuing Education for occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants by the American Occupational Therapy Association.  The assignment of AOTA CEUs does not imply endorsement of specific course content, products, or clinical procedures by AOTA.



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