How do you know where your arm or foot is if you can't see it?
Proprioception (pro-pree-uh-sep-shen) is the body’s ability to sense movement in its joints. Proprioceptive receptors are deep in our joints and muscle spindles and send sensory information to the brain about where our body is.
Poor proprioception can leave a child feeling ‘lost in space’… they can’t feel their own body, they do not know where their body starts and stops.
These are the kids that tap their foot constantly just so they are getting feedback to know where their foot is…
They are the bull in the china shop, it takes bumping into something to know where they are in space…
They love to rough house, it is grounding to them…
They touch everything just to understand how far away or near they are to it…
Imagine that you were in a totally dark room and needed to find the exit, what would you do?
You would start feeling around for where the walls are, or anything you might bump into…this is what it is like for kids with poor proprioception. They need to constantly use their other senses like sight or touch to know where they are. This constant distraction just trying to know where they are does not allow them to feel grounded or the attention they need for learning.
So how do we fix it?
Proprioception is strengthened by using our joints and muscles. Heavy lifting, pushing, pulling, all send messages to our brain making us aware of where our body is.
A great sport for girls is gymnastics or tumbling. For boys, wrestling provides all of the pushing, pulling and battling needed to provide feedback to the brain. Another great activity for anybody is Crossfit. Crossfit involves short bursts of strenuous exercise that can involve box jumps, pull-ups, rope climbs, and tire rolling. Any strenuous activity will work wonders.
If your kids are younger, things like pushing a wheelbarrow, climbing a tree, tug-o-war, or even climbing a hill, can provide the necessary workload to provide stimulation to the muscles and the brain.
References used for this article include:
-Davies, Douglas, MSW, PhD, Child Development: A Practioner's Guide, Third Edition
-Melilllo, Robert, Disconnected Kids
-Ratey, John J., Spark