Sensory Processing Disorder: Proprioceptive Dysfunction

Proprioception is that sense that gets very little acknowledgment.  We know about the big 5: sight, smell, taste, sound, feel.  Proprioception is underrecognized sense that we rely heavily on.  When we dance or jump, proprioception helps us negotiate the movements without falling over. It is the sense within our joints and muscles that allows us to dance a waltz or the macarena without skipping a beat.  Proprioception gives us a sense of where our body is in space.

According to (see this web site:

Proprioception refers to the body’s ability to sense movement within joints and joint position. This ability enables us to know where our limbs are in space without having to look. It is important in all everyday movements but especially so in complicated sporting movements, where precise coordination is essential.

Sensory Seeking Proprioceptive Behavior

Those people who are sensory seeking for proprioceptive movements may do things like stomp their feet or find activities where things crash and smash into each other.  They might also seek out activities where they push, pull or drag things around (think: pushing tonka trucks around the backyard).  Bear hugs and roughhousing are high on the list of things they like to do.  They might like deep pressure and squeezes as a way to calm down.  Basically, you can’t go wrong if you wrestle with and roughhouse with a sensory seeker.

Struggling With Grading Movement

The person who struggles with grading movement has problems judging the weight of objects.  When they pick an item up, they might lift too much and fling it.  They might accidentally slam doors because they don’t judge the weight of the door very well.  They might misjudge how much force they are exerting when petting animals and press too hard. In other words, their brain doesn’t process

Things you can do:

Contact an OT if you believe that your child might have sensory processing disorder.   Check out the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation’s web site for more information on referrals:

Here is a list of things you can do to help with Proprioceptive Dysfunction:Go Ride a Bike!

  • Play “Burrito”:  Wrap your child up in a blanket so tight that they can’t escape.  If they are a sensory seeker, they will love it.  They’ll probably ask to do this over and over.
  • Roughhousing:  Sensory seekers love to be wrestled with, thrown over a shoulder and given a pretend smack down.  My kids love to try and take me down. So we play wrestle, they “get” me and my husband and we “get” them back:-)  It is all in play.
  • Get a trampoline:  Jumping gives muscles a chance to feel proprioception, offering the brain a chance to process the feeling deeply.  Trampolines are a much more acceptable way to get the “wiggles out” without stomping on the floor.  Some trampolines even have a safety bar to hang on to for balance.  They’re available at most sports stores but if you don’t want to pay full price, ask around or check Craigs list or eBay.
  • Push things around:  Since we have boys in our house, we have many trucks.  The big dump trucks are perfect for loading stuff up and shoving it around the yard.  In the house, we shove around any member of the fleet of trucks we have in the toy room.  If you don’t have trucks, try brooms, rakes, wagons, strollers, vacuum cleaners… anything that gets the whole body moving.
  • Carry around heavy objects:  Let them carry heavy grocery bags, heavy backpacks, or boxes.
  • Weighted or pressure vest:  Ask an OT which might be best for your child: a weighted vest or a pressure vest.  I am unsure of the difference between them and there is apparently some difference.  My son has used both in school with some success.
  • Ride a bike:  Getting the whole body moving by riding a bike or tricycle can be very helpful.  If your child struggle to negotiate balance (like my son does), make sure he or she has training wheels or try a balance bike.
  • Crash Pad:  Crash pads are very fun.  We made one out of an old feather bed.  They are basically a giant beanbag that you can run and crash into.  The crash pad had a short life in our house, however, since we have hardwood floors that are not very forgiving once the feathers stop providing cushioning.
  • Pogo Stick:  If your child is good with balance, a pogo stick might be a lot of fun to get that proprioceptive input.
  • Squeezes and massage:  Everyone is different with their pressure needs, but figure out the right amount of pressure to include in a massage or squeezes.  If we’re in a hurry, I will squeeze my son’s arms, with a fairly deep amount of pressure, legs, hands and feet (5 times each) to give him the sensory input he needs to calm down.  If we’re sitting anywhere for a length of time, I will scratch or rub his back.  If I’m lucky he’ll even fall asleep!
  • Weighted Blankets:  Weighted blankets give that deep pressure that some children need.  The weight of the blanket is thoroughly relaxing.  My mom was kind enough to make a weighted blanket for my son (which he uses most nights).  If you aren’t handy with a sewing machine or don’t have a mom that is an excellent seamstress, there are many people who can make these awesome blankets for you.  They will cost $100 or more because the materials used to make a high quality blanket are expensive.  Sensacalm makes excellent weighted blankets. Check them out at:

What are some of your favorite ways to help with Proprioceptive Dysfunction?