Proprioceptive oversensitivity or hypersensitivity

Usually when proprioceptive dysfunction is explained the symptoms described are those of proprioceptive undersensitivity: bashing into things, crashing, stomping, slapping, clapping, etc. But what if a child has proprioceptive OVERsensitivity?

It is difficult to find information on this, although has some important notes: what makes a proprioceptive hyposensitive child calm will have the opposite affect on a hypersensitive child, the latter children will likely avoid all of the activities recommended for proprioceptive undersensitivity.

The same website lists the following as indicators of proprioceptive hyposensitivity/undersensitivity:

Indicators that a student is seeking proprioceptive input

Bites/chews on objects e.g. sleeve of jumper, pen/pencil
Hyperextends joints e.g. bending back fingers, locking knee joints
Bangs body parts e.g. bangs hands together, bangs jaw with hand
Holds objects with excessive pressure e.g. pencil; writes heavily on page
Enjoys rough and tumble play but can be excessively rough with others
Throws self heavily onto floor
Prefers to run, jump or stamp heavily when he/she should be walking
Likes to sit with knees tucked under himself/herself
Engages in weightbearing activities e.g. swinging on desks, climbing
Walks on tiptoes (NB there are other possible factors for this gait pattern; seeking proprioceptive input is just one factor)

Theoretically then a hypersensitive child will do almost the opposite of this:

Difficulty chewing/chews very lightly or slowly without biting down properly or with any force

Does not like to extend joints/limbs, avoids stretching or reaching out or up

Avoids all possible collisions with objects, people, etc, hates clapping/slapping/banging things

Holds objects very lightly, e.g. fork flops in hand, difficulty pressing down with a fork or knife due to lax grip and avoidance of pressure/pressing down hard

Avoids rough play, or any activity involving bumping or crashing (not due to vestibular dysfunction/balance; the same child may love being swung or riding on merry-go-rounds, but only where there is absolutely no jarring, bumping or crashing of their body)

Difficulty going into sitting/lying down positions, hates heavily landing on floor/bed etc, hates jarring/jolting body

Prefers to walk very slowly or lightly, likes to be held up while walking (toddlers), to lean on something when walking (bike, baby walker, someone else) or refuses to walk at all due to need to avoid jarring/jolting sensation; avoids jumping, running, stamping.

Hates the sensation of knees being tucked under themselves or legs being squashed up or bent double; prefers to lie flat with arms and knees slightly bent, with no limb pressing on another, no joint hyperextended and no joint bent at an angle (where there is pressure on a joint)

Avoids all weighbearing activities including carrying anything, climbing anything (trees, etc), even lifting up clothes to get dressed can seem very difficult and can cause major meltdowns. Avoids bearing own body weight as much as possible, e.g. avoids standing, sitting up straight, walking, etc.

Doesn't walk on tiptoes due to strain and pressure involved in muscles and joints.

Now if this list describes a child hypersensitive to proprioception this exactly describes a member of our family. This little person finds it immensely difficult to move himself,

even to get up off his chair is immensely hard.

He prefers to sit down and be carried everywhere than to walk himself. He loves vestibular activities like being hung upside down, going on swings, seasaws, merry-go-rounds, slides, etc but can barely manage to move himself to get onto these things. Best for him is being moved by someone else, so he does not have to engage his body at all.

He has spent most of his life being carried everywhere by us but is getting too heavy now for this. He says he loved the push chair and wishes he still had one (he's too big for it now).

He has no difficulty with touch but hates brushing his teeth. If I do it for him he is fine but he cannot do it himself without a meltdown. Moving his arms is just too hard.

He has trouble cutting up his dinner and putting it in his mouth. He doesn't want to press down hard (although he 'can' if I tries to, there is no physical weakness in him, only extreme sensory avoidance). Once in his mouth he finds it hard to bite down on the food.

He hates trying to hold things, carry things, lift things including his own body.

He holds a pencil, spoon, knife, etc extremely lightly as though it will fall out of his hand (often it does).

If we rush him at all he has a very extreme meltdown so we have learnt to let him do everything very slowly.

He does not reach for things, including toys he wants to play with, or sauce for his dinner.

He has trouble asking for things because it is a strain for him to open and use his mouth for talking often. He usually has to rest his head on his arm and be seated to ask for something he wants or needs.

He hates the playground at school because of all the bashing, crashing, running which he fears might come at him, so he sticks to the edges and does not want to go out there at all.

He often 'disobeys' at school, especially if the task involves getting out of his seat or moving his arms or legs (e.g. getting a new book out, etc). He finds it too hard to move, so he refuses to and if pressured a meltdown occurs. He is otherwise an extremely compliant and empathetic child, and this upsets him greatly as he wants to please and to be liked by his teachers.

I wanted to write this for anyone else who like us has not been able to find a 'fit' in the other sensory profiles for their child's behaviour. I am convinced it is a proprioceptive issue, as he is undersensitive to touch and vestibular activity and craves both.

However all the info on proprioception I have read describes the opposite of his behaviour and this suggests to me that it is proprioceptive oversensitivity we are dealing with. I hope this is of some help to someone.

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Feb 24, 2018
by: Anonymous

Feb 24, 2018
proprioceptive defensiveness
by: Barry

I found a website here which has some, minimal, information about proprioceptive defeniveness:

It states 'Proprioceptive Defensiveness: intense sensitivity or overreaction to heavy input to the muscles and joints'

This sounds very similar to proprioceptive hypersensitivity I think?

Feb 24, 2018
Another site on proprioceptive hypersensitivity
by: Anonymous

There is a small amount of info on proprioceptive oversensitivity or avoidance on a different website which I found illuminating. Both saying similar things. It's really important to recognise proprioceptive hypersensitivity.

The more info the better!

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