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Updated: Jul 2, 2020

As Occupational Therapists we always tease our therapy clients’ parents that we like to add as many complex words and phrases as possible to confuse them even more as to what we “do”. Proprioception is one of those big fancy words that we like to throw into the mix just to make us sound fancy!

On a serious note, proprioception has such a big beautiful name as it is the sense that tells our brains all about our big beautiful bodies. Proprioception is our internal body awareness system that tells us where all of of body parts are and assists us in using those body parts in a fluid and controlled way. The proprioceptive receptors are found in our skin, muscles and our joints and are activated through ‘heavy work/ impact.’ Children with poor proprioception can be perceived as ‘floppy’ and ‘clumsy’ as their bodies are not accurately sending messages to their brain, which is then not accurately responding to those messages about how much force a muscle should exert or how fast or slow to move.

Proprioception is received by the nervous system that transmits information regarding the position of the body in space. Furthermore, the proprioceptive input and deep pressure generated by that same system is said to have a calming affect on children. Thus as Occupational Therapists, we use proprioceptive tasks (see below) as a means to assist children to feel calm, regulated and ready for learning. However, Children can be under-responsive to proprioception, meaning that they require a lot of heavy work and additional feedback to assist them to feel calm and regulated. In order for their bodies to receive ‘enough input’ they are often observed as banging, crashing, falling and hitting.

Some ideas to add proprioception to your daily schedule:

When we want to provide proprioceptive input- think ‘heavy work’ and ‘working against resistance’. This is all to aid the development of the body scheme (mental map of all of our body parts).

Some proprioceptive ideas include:

- Jumping on a trampoline

- Crawling and rolling in a spandex stretchy suit

- Climbing on climbing frames- climbing up the slide is GREAT!

- Crawling through stretchy spandex tunnel.

- Jumping and climbing up the spandex hammock(comfy cocoon)

- Sitting on a therapy ball and bouncing up and down

- In the garden: Pushing a wheelbarrow full of toys; digging; building.

- In the kitchen: Cooking, stirring, kneading dough.

Some deep pressure ideas include (calming):

- Squashes: Rolling a ball over their back. Ask your child to lie on her stomach and roll the gym ball over her back, arms and legs (don’t be afraid of adding pressure – the more the better)

- Joint compressions: compressing the joints towards one another; starting with the arms and then moving onto the legs (this can be demonstrated by an occupational therapist). Firm massage can also be an effective way to stimulate the proprioceptive system and can have a calming effect.

- Praying hands: place both hands against each other in the praying position in front of yourself. Push together as hard as you can whilst counting to 10.

- Head pushes: Place both hands on top of your head and push down for the count of 10.

- Playing with theraputty is a great way to add proprioceptive input into the hands- great before handwriting!

- Wearing a weighted vest or weighted teddy bear provides constant deep pressure while the little one is doing their work or playing a game.

The list is endless! Be creative and have fun!!

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Written by Dani-lee Eve

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