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Proprioceptive Processing

Paediatric Occupational Therapy Proprioception (Body Awarness) Processing

Advice and Information for Parent / Carers

The proprioceptive system uses unconscious information from the muscles and joints to give us our awareness of body position. It is feedback from the muscles and joints that allow us to stand without falling, bounce a ball or use a pencil. It is proprioceptive information that tells the brain when and how the limb is moving e.g. bending, extending, pulling or pressing. If your proprioceptive system is working well you know how and where your arm is moving without having to watch it. If your child has a difficulty with proprioception they may appear to be quite clumsy, be unaware of how much force to use e.g. when cuddling you they squeeze too hard, and sometimes they tiptoe walk much more than other children.  

Proprioceptive input is known to have a calming effect as it helps to decrease hyper reactive responses to other sensations.  If we are upset we all like a ‘bear hug’ as being held close and tight stimulates feedback from the muscles and joints and gives us a sense of being safe and secure. Activities that involve deep pressure to the joints and muscles are generally calming for the child and can assist the child to participate in activities.  

A structured programme that is done several times each day may help to provide some calming input that will facilitate better general sensory tolerance. Use any of the proprioceptive strategies listed below for 10 minutes prior to carrying out any experience the child is likely to find distressing. This will help calm your child and enable them to tolerate unpleasant sensory experiences better.  

Examples of proprioceptive activities are listed below.

Carrying heavy things e.g:        

  • Laundry baskets full of washing         
  • Shopping bags         
  • Large bottles of milk or water         
  • Rucksack filled with toys      

Pushing activities e.g:        

  • Prams or buggies         
  • Shopping trolley         
  • Helping with gardening activities         
  • Push along toys loaded with building blocks etc          

Pulling activities e.g:         

  • ‘Row your boat’ action song         
  • Tug-of-war        
  • Hanging from monkey bars         
  • Taking out the wheelie bins          

Crashing activities e.g:        

  • Pile cushions, pillows & duvet covers on the floor and allow child to jump into them       
  • Playing on a trampoline         
  • Crab walks         
  • Playing ‘wheelbarrows’ by supporting child’s legs & hips and letting them ‘walk’ on their hands
  • Give the child a microwaveable wheat bag to drape across his shoulders or lap    

The information sheets presented on this site were developed by Occupational Therapists primarily for use as a pre-referral resource. 
The website accept no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any activity ideas or treatment regimen detailed in the information sheets.