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What is proprioception?

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    Children with autism may have an over-responsiveness or under-responsiveness to proprioception, which is responsible for the awareness of our body.

    What is it?

    Proprioception helps us to know where each part of our body is and how it is moving. It helps us to judge the force at which we do something and perform everyday tasks e.g. dressing without having to rely on our vision. The receptors for the proprioception sense are located in the muscles and joints. They are mainly stimulated by resistive activities or stretching. When the proprioceptive sense is working well, we can make continual adjustments to our position.

    This helps us to:

    • Stay in the best position in a chair
    • Hold utensils in the right way e.g. pen, cutlery
    • Judge how to manoeuvre through space
    • Develop an awareness of our own and others personal space
    • Judge the force at which we do something
    • Calm and organise ourselves

    Difficulties you may see

    • Have stiff and uncoordinated movements
    • Be clumsy and fall frequently
    • Crash into objects in the environment
    • Have difficulty dressing or undressing
    • Not be able to do things without looking
    • Have difficulty seating themselves in a chair and fidgets
    • Always on the go
    • Have difficulty grading the force at which they do something
    • Has poor spatial awareness

    Strategies to help

    The following activities provide ideas to help your child to become more aware of their body position and become calmer and more organised.
    NOTE: Please use common sense and do not apply to much pressure or ask your child to push, pull or carry something that is too heavy for them.

    Heavy work

    • Wearing a weighted rucksack
    • Using a weighted lap pad when sitting
    • Throwing games using weighted objects e.g. Throwing bean bags at targets
    • Lifting items e.g. floor cushions or box of objects
    • Carrying heavy bags or pile of books
    • Carrying washing upstairs

    Pushing/pulling tasks

    • Moving equipment/furniture (chairs toy boxes)
    • Play magic room-pretend to push out the walls with arms and hands
    • Helping with house hold chores e.g. mopping floors, sweeping and hoovering
    • Pushing the supermarket trolley
    • Tug of war games

    Deep pressure touch

    • Firm massage
    • Bear hugs
    • Firm hand shakes
    • Hot dog game- rolling your child in a rug or blanket with their head showing
    • Sandwich game- child lays on their back and adult lays items such as cushion on top of child applying firm/comfortable pressure pretending items are sandwich fillings


    • Animal walks-pretend to be different animals moving as lightly and heavily as possible.
    • Do activities such as puzzles in all fours position
    • Jumping and hopping games
    • Play on space hopper
    • Use a gym ball to sit on when engaging in static activities, e.g. watching TV or doing homework. You can also play ‘squashing’ games with a therapy ball where they lay on the floor and you gently provide pressure to their arms, legs and back with the therapy ball. Encourage your child to push the therapy ball against a wall with their arms and feet.
    • Playing on trampoline
    • Rough and tumble games
    • Child stands with eyes closed. Adult then moves the child’s limbs into different positions then returns them to original position. Child opens eyes and then tries to remember the position they were placed in.

    Children with autism may be affected by difficulties relating to proprioception, but implementing games, movement and interactions related to the body and its awareness, can be useful.

    Please feel free to get in touch if you would like to discuss any awareness difficulties your child may be experiencing.

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