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  • Writer's pictureAnnmarie DeMarco

What is proprioception?

Updated: Feb 3, 2021

Proprioception is one of our 8 senses.. I'm going to talk about the 8 senses in the coming weeks, but let's focus on proprioception for today.

Kiddos who are seeking proprioception are usually sensory seekers (I'm a sensory seeker myself! See the above photo; weighted blankets, deep pressure) Proprioceptive seekers are always on the move; climbing, running, spinning, jumping & crashing and they enjoy deep hugs/squeezes. You may even notice your little one crawl into tight enclosed spaces and hang out there for a little while. Whenever I evaluate one of these kiddos, one of the first comments a parent will make is that they have a lot of energy.

So what is proprioception? Within our joints and muscles are sensors that communicate to our brain where our body is in our environment. Proprioception helps to inform us if we are jumping, walking, sitting, climbing, etc. When those sensors don't work optimally, and we're not quite sure where our body is in space, it can create some issues.

Proprioceptive input or heavy work is usually calming. What does that mean? It sounds more complicated than it is, but basically, any activity that makes the muscles and joints work harder will provide additional sensory information to the muscles and joints. This means they can communicate with the brain more effectively and the input can have a calming effect. In a nutshell, provide your child with more opportunities for heavy work.

Heavy work activities:

  • Jumping and crashing into a pile of blankets and pillows.

  • Pushing and pulling Squigz.

  • Have your little one help you carry groceries inside & put food items away.

  • Deep pressure: have your little one lie down on their belly and push a pillow over their body using medium pressure.

  • Pushing or pulling heavy boxes across the floor (boxes of diapers) or laundry basket with clothes inside.

  • Animal walks (walk like a bear, jump like a frog)

  • Weighted equipment: Weighted vest, weighted blanket, or weighted lap pad. The rule of thumb is that the weight is no more than 10% of your child’s body weight. (If your child weighs 20 pounds, the weighted equipment should equate to 2 pounds.) Start by wearing for 25-30 minutes, twice a day, with at least a 2 hour break in between wearing! Children should not sleep with weighted equipment & always be supervised when wearing.⁣

If you try an activity one day, and your little one does not like it, don't be discouraged! Try it again another time as sensory systems are always evolving.

These activities are great to try throughout the day, prior to nap or bed time, and prior to meals!

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