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Proprioception- essential for regulation

Updated: May 27



Proprioception is one of the main senses that I focus on in Occupational Therapy or any of my work with kids. It is your sense of where you and your body parts are in space, of where you or your limbs are moving and the force of your movement. It comes from receptors located in your muscles and joints. Proprioception is a key modulator in the nervous system- it helps the nervous system to maintain an optimal arousal by upregulating or downregulating (energizing you or calming you down), or by changing the amount of sensation you feel. It helps to organize sensation and allows a person to feel grounded and in touch with their surroundings and their body, shifting a person from a survival fight or flight mode to connection and exploration. 


Some signs that your child might struggle with proprioception or are seeking extra proprioceptive input to regulate themselves are:


  • They bite or chew on objects such as their fingers, sleeves, or pencil

  • They seem to lack awareness of their own strength (ie. Push too hard when writing, slam doors, frequently drop things)

  • They write very lightly

  • They enjoy rough and tumble play, crashing, jumping and climbing

  • They walk on tip toes

  • They walk heavily or stomp frequently

  • They love being squished, hugged, or hiding in tight spaces

  • They have a hard time isolating body movements such as touching their nose with their finger with their eyes closed

  • They play rough with other children or pets

  • They enjoy hyper extending their joints or banging body parts together

  • They lack an awareness of personal space

  • They struggle with coordination

Giving children opportunities for extra proprioceptive input throughout the day can help them make sense of their body in space and can help them regulate. Some ways to do this are through heavy work- using the body against resistance. Some examples are doing pushups, catch with a medicine ball, climbing, pulling a heavy wagon, swimming, carrying something heavy or helping with chores.

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