What is Proprioception?

Proprioception is the sensory input and feedback we receive about our body position. Information is passed from receptors in our muscles, joints and tendons to our brain. Proprioception is one of our subconscious/hidden senses and it is sometimes referred to as our ‘body awareness sense’ or our ‘position sense’. It gives us a sense of where we are in space as it lets us know what our body is doing and what a movement felt like without us having to use our vision. Proprioception is important in: 

  • Motor planning i.e. visualise and figure out what each part of the body needs to do in order to move a certain way or complete a task. 
  • Motor control i.e. physically carrying out the planned movement that has been visualised. 
  • Grading movements i.e. knowing how much pressure is needed to complete a task e.g. how hard or soft to throw a ball or hold a pencil. 
  • Postural stability i.e. to hold and maintain your postural muscles and responses, which helps to give you a sense of security and safety during movement 

Inefficient processing of Proprioceptive information If the receptors are not sending clear messages to our brain about whether muscles are being stretched and joints are bending or straightening children may have difficulty with both fine and gross motor tasks such as riding a bike, writing, walking, crawling, or playing sports. 

Children who do not process proprioceptive information tend to be uncoordinated and clumsy. They may bump into things, trip, fall, breaking things and generally not manage themselves in the most efficient manner. Children often have to watch everything that they do and will often seek deep pressure to help them be more aware of where there body is and what it is doing e.g. by crashing, jumping and pressing harder with their pencil. Typical unconscious thoughts such as motor planning become active, conscious and frustrating. Children who are unable to move and use their body effectively can become easily frustrated, give up, and lose self- confidence. The brain may know what to do, but the child cannot figure out how to make their body do it. 

Sensory Seeking If children are sensory seeking additional proprioceptive input they may: 

  • Walk too hard, push too hard, bang too hard, write too hard, play with objects too hard, etc. 
  • Be the loud ones, rough ones, crashers, movers, shakers, runners, jumpers, and bouncers (i.e. an insatiable bundle of energy!) 
  • Shake legs or constantly bang the back of the foot on the floor/chair while sitting in class 
  • Play too rough (often hurting self or others), jump off or crash into ANYTHING they can 

Updated 20/12/2017 To be reviewed December 2018 

  • Crack knuckles, chew on their fingers, bite nails, chew on pens, gum, pencils, clothing collars, sleeves, or strings, or inedible objects (i.e. paper clips, pieces of toys etc.) 
  • Enjoys tight clothes (i.e. turtlenecks, tight belts, hoods, hats, jackets zipped ALL the way up, under armour, tight pyjamas etc.) 

Poor Motor Planning, Body Awareness or Motor Control If they have poor motor planning, body awareness, or motor control, they may have difficulty: 

  • Climbing, running, riding a bike, doing jumping jacks, hitting a ball, roller skating, etc. 
  • Tying shoes or knowing how to move their body when you help them get dressed/undressed 
  • frequently bump into objects and people accidentally 
  • trip and fall often 
  • Learning to go up and down stairs/escalators, and may be frightened by them. 

Postural Instability Signs of postural instability will include… 

  • Slumping at desk, dinner table etc. 
  • Appear to be “limp” and lethargic all the time 
  • Needing to rest their head on their hands, or lay their head down on their arm on the desk/table while working 
  • Having poor posture during motor tasks 
  • Being unable to stand on one foot and have difficulty with any balancing tasks 
  • Challenges getting up off the floor quickly and efficiently The challenges that children who inefficiently process proprioceptive information face in order to perform ever day tasks may affect their self esteem. They may avoid many typical play experiences, become shy, be afraid to try anything new and lack self-confidence.

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