What is proprioception?
Proprioception is one of the important sense of our body. Proprioception is the unconscious awareness of body position. It tells us about the position of our body parts, their relation to each other, and their relation to other people and objects.
Proprioception is the part of the proprioceptive system. Receptors for the proprioceptive system are located in muscles, tendons, ligaments, joint capsules, and connective tissue.
We depend on our proprioceptive system to help us make sense of movement experiences. When we hold something in our hand, the proprioceptive system (muscles and joints around the object) tells us about the shape and size of an object.
The vestibular and proprioceptive systems are interrelated and have some common function.
Role of proprioception in the sensory integration therapy-
Proprioceptive system provides information regarding the unconscious awareness of our body. This awareness helps create a body scheme. This body scheme helps us to develop the motor planning abilities.
Occupational therapist uses proprioceptive activities as a medium of intervention in the sensory integration therapy. Proprioceptive activities provide us sensory rich proprioception inputs.
Certain types of proprioceptive sensations can help the brain regulate arousal (alertness) states. These proprioceptive sensations are provided by activities that require muscles to stretch and work hard.
Proprioceptive sensations rarely overload the nervous system, and some sensations can have both calming and alerting abilities, depending upon the individual nervous system. (Wilbarger, 1991; Williams and Shellenberger, 1994)
Some kids do not adequately receive or process information from their proprioceptive system. This result in the lack of self-awareness and body movements. This can directly affect the motor skills of the child.
The children with proprioceptive dysfunction, cannot position their bodies correctly in daily routines like, get on a bicycle or step on an escalator. These kids unable to play adequately, because frequent changes in movement are difficult. For example, while playing catching-throwing a ball.
Also called: Proprioceptive Seeker
The brain is not likely to over-register proprioception nor get over-stimulated by it. But the very unfortunate part is that it is very common for sensory kiddos to under-register proprioception. This can impact many areas of development and greatly impact self-regulation. The brain thrives on proprioception in so many ways, so when a child does not register this information it can cause many difficulties for the child.
Characteristics of Proprioceptive Dysfunction-
The child with an inefficient processing of sensations coming from his muscles and joints may:
- Inability to determine the amount of force necessary to hold or move things. Ex. Writing can be too light or too much pressure.
- Keep rocking their body.
- Jumps on beds.
- Squeezes himself/herself between the furniture.
- Hide under heavy blankets.
- Have problems with touch, or with balance and movement as well.
- Have a poor sense of body awareness.
- Be stiff, uncoordinated, and clumsy, falling and tripping frequently.
- Lean, bump, or crash against objects and people, and invade other’s body space.
- Be unable to do familiar things without looking, such as getting dressed.
- Chew cuffs, collars, pencils, and other inedible objects.
- Slap feet when walking, pull on fingers, and crack knuckles (for additional feedback).
- Avoid participation in ordinary movement experiences because they make him feel uncomfortable or inadequate.
- Resist new challenges.
- May have oral-motor problems.
Proprioceptive activities along with vestibular activities have very significant impact on the nervous system. Proprioceptive activities are often referred to as “heavy work activities”. Proprioceptive input can have powerful calming and organizing effects on the nervous system.
These activities can help to inhibit or prevent uncomfortable reactions to sensations. These activities are particularly important to include in sensory diets for children who are sensory defensive.
Proprioception activities are the excellent tool for calming, organizing, and self-regulating the nervous system. Fifteen minutes of a proprioceptive activity can have a 1-2 hour positive effect on sensory processing.
List of proprioceptive activities-
☆ Stair climbing/sliding—bumping down on the bottom.
☆ Crawling through tunnels or boxes on all fours.
☆ Playing Tug of war—with ropes, scarves, stretchy bands.
☆ Roughhousing—play wrestling.
☆ Pulling/pushing—weighted wagon, wheelbarrow, or cart (weighted).
☆ Catching/throwing—heavyweight ball, bean bags, cushions.
☆ Kicking—soccer ball, big ball.
☆ Carrying heavy items—groceries, boxes, books.
☆ Swimming/ extra bath time.
☆ Big ball activities.
☆ Scooter board activities.
☆ Silly animal walks.
☆ Wheelbarrow walking.
☆ Pulling apart resistant toys/objects—Lego, snap beads, stretchy toys.
☆ Pounding/rolling—Play-Doh/clay, theraputty.
☆ Hitting-punching bag or tetherball.
☆ Squishing between pillows.
☆ Body stretch.
☆ Joint compressions.
☆ Heavy exercise—push-ups, sit-ups, handstands, Tug of War, jumping.
☆ Batting at balls—use a plastic baseball bat.
☆ Swinging—while someone pulls on legs.
☆ Hanging—from adult hands or trapeze bar.
☆ Pushing against a wall, another person, hands together.
Gross Motor Activities—hiking with backpack, biking uphill, obstacle courses, stretching and toning exercises.
☆ Biting, chewing, and crunching—resistive foods or tubing.
☆ Wearing a weighted vest.
Proprioceptive activities for infants-
- Tummy time pushups
- Soft toys squeezing.
- Chewy tubes.
- Joint compression-traction.
Proprioceptive activities for toddlers-
- Walker push/chair push
- Crunch ice.
- Use chewelry.
- Make smoothies and suck through a straw.
- Practice chewing gum and blowing bubbles.
- Use crazy straws.
- Toddlers can push their own strollers, the laundry, or grocery cart.
- Ask him/her to carry a backpack full of his or her toys and books.
- Have a pillow fight.
Proprioceptive activities for preschoolers-
- Bear walk.
- Crab walk.
- Leap frog.
- Brain gym activities.
- Door push-pull activities.
- Bean bag pushing-lifting.
- Garden activities.
- Park activities.
Proprioceptive activities for classroom / school-
- Wheelbarrow walking.
- Punching bags.
- Theraputty activities.
- Playing tug of war.
- Desk shifting activities.
- Wall pushups.
- Heavy backpacks.
Proprioceptive activities for adults-
- Household chores.
- Washing-cleaning home.
- Sweeping the floor.
- Hammering (under observation).
Proprioceptive activities at home-
- Unload the washing machine and the dryer.
- Open and close the door of refrigerator.
- Bean bag lifting.
- Pushing-pulling the chair.
- Pillow fight.
- Above mentioned activities can also be done at home.
Read more… Tactile Activities
Smith, Sinclair A., et al. “Effects of sensory integration intervention on self-stimulating and self-injurious behaviors.” American Journal of Occupational Therapy 59.4 (2005): 418-425.
Yack, Ellen, Shirley Sutton, and Paula Aquilla. Building bridges through sensory integration. Future Horizons, 2003.
Kranowitz, Carol Stock. The out-of-sync child: Recognizing and coping with sensory processing disorder. Penguin, 2005.
Larkey, Sue. Practical sensory programmes for students with autism spectrum disorders. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2007.