The proprioceptive sense is an often forgotten yet essential bodily sense that most of us take for granted. Proprioception is the awareness of our body’s position and movement. It is an awareness of our body’s orientation in space, and the direction, speed, and extent of the movement of the body and limbs. This information is detected by sensory receptors in our body and then processed through the central nervous system. Some children with ASD or other neurodivergencies may have difficulties with proprioceptive feedback because of sensory processing issues. Let’s go over what proprioception is and why it’s essential.
What is Proprioception?
When children move around, their muscles stretch and contract. Proprioception refers to the messages joints and muscles send to the brain to help coordinate movement. This sense also allows us to judge the force and direction of our actions. Our bodies instinctively know to apply more pressure when lifting something heavy and less effort when lifting something light. The proprioceptive system allows us to coordinate the movement of our limbs efficiently to play and move without having to look.
The Importance of Healthy Proprioception
A healthy and functioning proprioceptive system allows a child to write with a pencil without pushing so hard that they rip the paper or take a drink from a paper cup without crushing it in their hand. A functioning proprioceptive system allows children to move, play, and explore in a coordinated and balanced way, not too gently, not too rough.
Signs of Poor Proprioception
Poor proprioception makes maintaining posture and feeling safe and secure while moving difficult. It affects awareness of the position of the body, arms, and legs. An underperforming proprioceptive sense affects different motor senses. A child with poor proprioception may tend to:
- play roughly or run excessively
- appear clumsy
- have difficulty writing or drawing
- display repetitive behavior such as spinning, rocking, or fidgeting
- like to chew on their fingers, clothes, toys, or other objects
- appear uncoordinated and have difficulty with large motor skills such as jumping, climbing, or bike riding
- frequently bumping into things or people
Great Proprioceptive Activities for Kids
Many children develop a solid proprioceptive sense by engaging in everyday play activities that allow for exploration and movement. There are many activities to help promote the development of a healthy proprioceptive system. Some activities include:
- Go to the playground. Allow your child to run, jump, climb and explore to their heart’s content.
- Sign them up for swimming, gymnastics, karate, or yoga classes.
- Jumping on a trampoline
- Use toys that provide resistance like stress balls, resistance bands, or rubber bands.
The Connections Therapy Center
The Connections Therapy Center serves families of children and adolescents with disabilities and special needs. We are a team of experts in the fields of pediatric speech, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and behavioral sciences. As a team, we offer intensive hands-on therapy for children and adolescents, as well as informative and useful resources for families. If you are interested in learning more about what we can do to help your family, visit us online or give us a call at (301) 577-4333. Want to get more information on how to help your child thrive? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest.