Proprioceptive Dysfunction: The REAL Reason He Keeps Crashing, Jumping, Tripping, Falling, Writing Too Dark, And Breaking Things!

Trust me, you will KNOW when you see a child with proprioceptive dysfunction! It is one of the saddest aspects of sensory processing disorders, and will easily and quickly wreak havoc on a child's self-esteem.

If "proprioceptive" is a new term to you, then let me explain. It is one of the "8 senses" I talk about in other articles . One of the best ways I can explain it is within my "Sensory Processing Disorders: How Does It Feel Like" article . Feel free to read this, then come back.

You're back?... Oh good, because I have a lot more to say on about proprioception dysfunction!

You see, in sensory integration theory (developed by A. Jean Ayres back in the 70's) the proprioceptive sense refers to the sensory input and feedback that tells us about movement and body position. It's "receptors" are located within our muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, and connective tissues. It is one of the "deep senses" and could be considered the "position sense" (as Carol Stock Kranowitz refers to it in her book entitled  The Out-of-Sync Child... which is a must read for anyone dealing with sensory processing disorders -- you can find it at The Sensory Processing Disorder Store

So, if this proprioceptive sense is not receiving or interpreting input correctly within these muscles, joints etc., then we refer to it as PROPRIOCEPTIVE DYSFUNCTION.

When I say it is "one of the saddest aspects", it is because it manifests itself as kids who are clumsy, uncoordinated, and have difficulty performing basic normal childhood tasks and activities. They don't experience the world like me and you.

Without proper messages regarding whether muscles are being stretched, whether joints are bending or straightening, and how much of each of these is happening, children will have the following "clinical" signs of proprioceptive dysfunction...

 

  • difficulty "motor planning"; i.e. conceptualizing and figuring out what each part of his body needs to do in order to move a certain way or complete a task (what is an unconscious sense to us, becomes an active, conscious, frustrating sense to them)

  • difficulty executing those planned movements: i.e."motor control" (the brain may know what to do, but they can't figure out how to make their body do it)


  • difficulty "grading movement"; knowing how much pressure is needed to complete a task (i.e. hold a cup of water, hold and write with a pencil, turn the page of a book, hit a golf ball into the hole, etc.)


  • difficulty with "postural stability"; i.e. the ability to hold and maintain one's postural muscles and responses, giving you a sense of security and safety during movement. As a result, proprioception is impaired and "emotional security" suffers.

  • Children with proprioceptive dysfunction, who are unable to move and use their body effectively can become easily frustrated, give up, and lose self-confidence. It is truly difficult to watch these kids try SO HARD and not be able to do what they want to do. :0( Keeping in mind the aforementioned difficulties a child will have if this sense is not doing it's job correctly, you will quickly notice some of the following...



    Signs Of Proprioceptive Dysfunction:

     

    If they are under responsive to proprioceptive input (i.e. sensory seeking) they will...

     

  • walk to 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 his legs or constantly bang the back of his foot on the floor/chair while sitting in class


  • play too rough (often hurting himself or others), jump off of or crash into ANYTHING he can


  • crack his knuckles, chew on his fingers, bite his nails until they bleed, 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, tight pajamas etc.)



  • If they have poor motor planning, body awareness, or motor control, they will...

  • have difficulty climbing, running, riding a bike, doing jumping jacks, hitting a ball, roller skating, etc.


  • have difficulty tying shoes (this is a great resource..."Tie Your Shoes: Rocket Style/Bunny Ears ") or knowing how to move his body when you help him get dressed/undressed


  • frequently bump into objects and people accidentally


  • trip and fall often


  • have difficulty learning to go up and down stairs, and may be frightened by them (escalators too)



  • Signs of postural instability will include...

  • slumping at desk, dinner table etc.


  • appear to be "limp" and lethargic all the time


  • needing to rest his head on his hands or lay his head down on his 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



  • As a result of proprioceptive dysfunction, and the struggles/challenges these children must face everyday just trying to accomplish normal childhood activities, they may become "emotionally insecure". They may avoid many typical play experiences, become shy, be afraid to try anything new, lack self-confidence and self-esteem. If you have a child you think may show signs of proprioceptive dysfunction ( Click here for the complete sensory processing disorder checklist ), then I highly recommend you talk to an Occupational or Physical Therapist in your community to see if your child may need an evaluation.

    If you have, or know, a child who has a sensory processing disorder, please understand there is a NEUROLOGICAL reason they are doing these things!

    I know the "sensory seeking" kids can try our patience, but understand one of the best ways we can help them is to give them appropriate and frequent opportunities for "deep pressure" activities (A LIST OF THESE IS COMING SOON) and heavy work activities ...THEY NEED THEM! This WILL help them stay more focused, calm, and within an optimal arousal level.

    I also know the clumsy, uncoordinated kids can tug at our heart strings, make us angry or frustrated, but know that if they get the proper treatment, they CAN overcome (or adapt to) many of the "symptoms" of proprioceptive dysfunction without losing too much self-confidence. Will they ever be a professional baseball player, ice skater, or gymnast? Probably not. But, with the right kind of help they will finally be able to button, tie, zip, hit a ball, catch a frisbee, write out an assignment without breaking their pencil tip, etc. and begin to fit in with their peers and gain self-esteem.

    For their sake, get them the help they need. Their poor little hearts are sad. They feel "different", left out, are struggling so hard, and losing more self-confidence every day. Like I say, "if we can help even ONE child..."

    Do you have any insights on Proprioceptive Dysfunction?

    If you have any comments, stories, insights, ideas or suggestions about Proprioceptive Dysfunction, please share them with the readers of Sensory-Processing-Disorder.com

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