Proprioceptive Dysfunction: The
REAL Reason He Keeps Crashing, Jumping, Tripping, Falling, Writing Too Dark, And
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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)
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
What Other Visitors Have Said
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Help with my 18 month old Not rated yet
I just want answers for 18 month old to be normal. Well start off he was born at a healthy 39 weeks 8lb 1oz. About 6 months is when I noticed a difference …
Cole- 39 yrs old Not rated yet
I am nearly 40 and have suffered from Bi-polar Disorder and ADD. I have some nervous system issues I think are a result of having a tumor removed from …
I need some advice Not rated yet
Im very worried about my niece, she is 6 years old. She cant ride a bike and cant seem to even keep her feet on the peddles. Ive tried to teach her over …
25 year old female - given some hope Not rated yet
Pretty much sounds like a lot of adults could benefit from this too. I think this page describes those rough kids who always tended to get into trouble …
Proprioceptive input Not rated yet
How long do the effects of proprioceptive and tactile input during clinic-based therapy last for children?
M.Galloway Not rated yet
My son has just been diagnoised with this. He is now five but from a young age He has had problems. When he was a baby he used to forget to use his fingers. …
Male, 24 Not rated yet
I was diagnosed with a proprioceptive disorder when I was 4. I was the quentessential klutz as a kid. I ran into walls turning corners, …
I just found out about my child today Not rated yet
I finally asked for an IEP evaluation for my child this year- and the OT identified this issue. It is so gratifying to see a name for my child's difficulties. …
Heather Guy COTA Not rated yet
I work with Veterans at a VA hospital in Kansas and have developed a falls prevention and balance training program working with primarily neuromuscular …
Gemma Not rated yet
i love roller coasters, jumping off high places, i walk way too hard/fast, and when i was younger i used to stand there and spin in circles for my own …
Steve Not rated yet
Have a man who has been living with me for more than a decade, he has moderate developmental disorder. For as long as i have known him, he is what one …
Sensory seeking Proprioceptive input Not rated yet
My son is 3 1/2 yrs old and was diagnosed with severe autism , non verbal last year . he also has sensory processing disorder. My son likes to lean his …
Mom Not rated yet
I am the mom of a 4 year old. Since birth we have had questions about her health and none of the explanations from the various doctors seemed to address …
My daughter with SPD Not rated yet
I've known for some time that my daughter had SPD, but I never heard about proprioceptive disorder before. My daughter tests my patience everyday..getting …
Yoga Student Not rated yet
I am very interested in this topic. I knew my motor planning skills are poor in yoga. After reflecting on it, they've been poor my whole life. Amazing …
Elaine Lerman, M.Ed Not rated yet
I first learned about proprioceptive dysfunction during my Master's program in Special Education. We had to read " The Out-of-Sync Child ". I learned …
Developmental Optometry Not rated yet
We also found that by working with a developmental optometrist, we were able to help my daughter with her proprioception. Prior to this intervention, …
Mrs Not rated yet
my now 8year old son screamed when it was time for nails to be cut, hated being swung around especially upside down, and detested hair cuts, would scream …
Mr S Smith Not rated yet
I was born perfectly normal(ish!) but was involved in a road traffic accident as young teen which caused major muscle and nerve damage to my left calf; …
Elizabeth Edwards LEK, CBP Not rated yet
I was in a Gymboree class with my own daughter years ago and another child, a little boy was having a very difficult time participating in class. He was …
Always knew there was something... Not rated yet
Reading about SID and PD is so enlightening. I have worked with young children in the field of childcare for almost 20 years, and have always known that …
Seeking answers to seeking behavior Not rated yet
My son is now 4 1/2 and as a pediatric physical therapist I was aware that he had some proprioceptive issues from early on. As an infant he ferociously …
Untreated children with these issues Not rated yet
I work as a Behavioral Specialist Consultant and I see so many children with these issues that are untreated. I have two children with these issues and …
Re: Head Banging and Tapping Not rated yet
My DD age 4 does similar things. She sometimes hits herself in the head, taps her fingers on her face or runs her fingers all over her …
Chewer Not rated yet
When I was a kid, I chewed on all kinds of stuff. I was always getting in trouble for it so I learned to hide it. Rubber bands, plastic pen caps, the …
Proprioceptive loss following surgery Not rated yet
In 09 I had both knees replaced following the first surgery there was no problem but after the second surgery I began to have a funny falling sensation …
Mother of 6 wonderful children Not rated yet
My oldest has been diagnosed with high functioning Autism. He has not been diagnosed with Proprioceptive Dysfunction but I am going to ask his OT to look …
Ms J O'T Not rated yet
I have just got my sons report from the occupational therapy and from the report and watching my son grow up over the last 7 years he has a difficulties …
I want to cry!! Not rated yet
My Four year old boy Charlie has always been a challenge and has recently been assessed by the early intervention service in my area. They have said that …
response to 48-year-old Not rated yet
Hi~As an Occupational Therapist reading your entry it seems to me that you have a vestibular disorder and a tactile disorder. When one or two sensory …
Proprioception by a Mom/OT Not rated yet
Many years ago my family adopted a child from Latin America. Being a pediatric occupational therapist, I quickly recognized his proprioceptive issues. …
My four year old son has SPD symptoms Not rated yet
I know he's only four, but the world seems to be a challenge to him. Thank-you for the information about proprioceptive dysfunction. Its hard for him …
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Rooms - Extremely therapeutic for both children and adults with, or without,
sensory processing/sensory integration disorders. What should we put in it?
Children's Bean Bag Chairs - Use children's bean bag chairs to calm and
relax your child (with or without a sensory processing disorder) and give them
the deep pressure, proprioceptive input they need and crave.
Tunnels - Every child loves play tunnels, play tents and play huts; use them
for gross motor skills or as a personal sensory room for children with sensory
Visit The Heavy Work Games And Activities Store
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Ideas And Products To Help Develop Fine Motor Skills
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