Simply put, proprioception is the body’s ability to sense itself. Proprioception dysfunction is a sensory processing disorder that has been observed in children with issues like Asperger’s and ADHD. It shows as difficulties in a child understanding boundaries when interacting with others, as well as not knowing where their physical body is in space.
Proprioception affects a child’s every waking moment and is fundamental to their functioning as it enables them to control their arms and legs without needing to look at them. This sense is processed by the nervous system, and not by one single organ. Receptors in the muscles, skin, and joints connect with the brain through the nervous system, making a child aware of his sense of his body in relation to space.
When a child has a processing disorder, they often feel disjointed. They can appear uncoordinated and clumsy. If your child is showing any of the following signs, it’s a good idea to get them seen by a pediatric occupational therapist:
- Poor postural control. They may be unable to stand on one foot, slump, or need to rest their head on their desk while writing.
- Poor body awareness and motor planning. They may have difficulty with riding a bike or going up or down the stairs. They may also bump into things regularly.
- Sensory seeking behaviors. They may enjoy wearing clothes that are too tight. They may also bite, chew, play too roughly, push, write too hard, or shake or bang their feet while sitting down.
In addition to the above, your child may seem to be disruptive when participating in general daily tasks, and may engage in behaviors like flapping and toe walking.
Proprioception can be regulated with the right treatment, and sensory integration therapies are often employed in a targeted way in these cases.