So today we're going to look at what proprioception is, then what it can look like in autism and ADHD, lastly, we're going to take a look at a bunch of different strategies that can help children and adults meet their proprioceptive needs.
So What is Proprioception?
Proprioception is our sense of our bodies and body awareness. It’s what we feel when we contract and stretch our muscles, and when we squeeze or experience deep pressure. It’s what allows us to know where our body parts are positioned without looking at them.
In autism and ADHD, many individuals experience sensory stimuli differently. This means they can be over or under-sensitive to things such as sound, sight, smells, and in this case, their sense of body awareness (or proprioception). This difference in sensory perception we call Sensory Processing Disorder.
Meeting sensory needs is essential as it can help reduce anxiety, improve empathy and help in recognising and managing emotions. The same is true of someone who’s undersensitive – so meeting this sensory need can allow them to also function better.
What does undersensitivity to proprioception look like?
(we call individuals that are undersensitive to a sense sensory seekers. This is because they can often seek out or crave that sensory input.)
If you’re under-sensitive to it you may:
– lack awareness of your body’s position so may bump into and lean against things
– use too much or too little pressure – such as when writing or break and drop objects
– you might like rough rigorous activities and like tight clothing and spaces to feel your boundaries
– you might have difficulty sleeping and sitting still
– you might have difficulty sitting still and physically stim and
move around a lot
– love biting or hard and chewy foods
– have anxiety in open spaces so like to stay close to the walls
Many things can help, such as:
– Movement like sport, exercise and movement breaks or alternate desks and chairs
– Stretch and resistant things such as yoga, weights, chew and resistance stim toys
– Deep pressure like hugs, massages and vibration, weighted objects and tight clothing and spaces
What does oversensitivity to proprioception look like?
(we call individuals that are oversensitive to a sense sensory avoiders. This is because they can often avoid that sensory input.)
If you’re oversensitive to it you may:
– be very aware of your body
– feel slight movements and your muscles
– mistake tension for pain
– avoid movement like sports and exercise
– avoid physical contact like hugs
– move slowly and carefully to avoid contact with objects
– dislike heavy clothing, blankets, and bags
– feel claustrophobic and so feel anxiety in tight spaces or crowds
Many things can help, such as:
– fixed chairs and tables can avoid small muscular movements
– light clothing can help avoid the sensation of weight
– avoiding crowds and tight spaces
– having light pressure on the skin
– replacing and pleasant sensations with nicer ones
That was just a very brief and limited overview – I have a bunch of videos on my YouTube explaining more here: youtube.com/@LorenSnow and my website here: www.lorensnow.com