Proprioceptive System: A Closer Look at Our 7th Sense

by Yaron Ginsberg

Proprioceptive System: A Closer Look at Our 7th Sense

Take a minute to close your eyes. Stretch your arms outward and try to touch your two index fingers. You might succeed on the first try. If not, your body corrects itself and by the second try, you should be able to touch your fingers. 

This is your proprioceptive system at work. It informs our body of its position in space by directing muscles on how to react to external stimuli. Like the other 6 senses, proprioception is essential for building body awareness and a sense of security.

An underdeveloped proprioceptive system requires tremendous concentration to react to a surrounding environment. The brain is unable to transform vision stimuli to proper physical reactions. To be more specific, the brain is unable to identify where specific body parts are in relation to one another.

Continuing with the example above, a child with weak proprioception would not be able to touch their fingers. Without visual input, they cannot sense that their arms are stretched out. Nor can they sense that their fingers are coming closer to one another.

Signs of a Weak Proprioceptive System Include:

• Constant crashing, bumping, jumping, and falling
• Misjudging the amount of force it takes to pick up or move objects
• Disregard for personal space of others
• Constant frustration & a lack of confidence
• Inability to verbally express thoughts

Proprioceptive Effect On Praxis

Praxis is the ability to interact with the surrounding environment. It consists of three basic functions: generating an idea of a reaction, making a plan, and executing a physical movement.

For those with weak proprioception, motor planning can be a challenge. These children lack the ability to perform unlearned tasks, even though they are physically able to do so. Also, learning new routines take time and may require trial and error.

Poor motor planning can have a detrimental effect on a child’s psyche. They become irritable and frustrated with their slow learning process. Anxiety also tends to be common, especially when there is a change in routine. These combined effects result in sensory meltdowns that can be hard to control. 

How Do I Strengthen My Child’s Proprioception?

• Take your child to the playground. Jumping, climbing, and running are resistive input that their bodies crave.

Deep Pressure Therapy. Use a weighted blanket or a sensory swing that cocoons your child and puts pressure on their sensory receptors.

Hard Work. Have your child help you with chores around the house. Picking up grocery bags, carrying the laundry basket, and gardening all require strength.

Simon Says. Body awareness games like “Simon Says” “Hokey Pokey” and mirror games build a sense of body awareness while having fun!

Drink with a straw. Give them apple sauce or thick smoothies to drink with a straw. This makes them aware of the extra effort their abdominal muscles exhort and the posture needed to do so.

Remember, each child has different sensory needs. Like learning a routine, finding the correct proprioception input for your child will require trial and error.

For more sensory diet activities, check out our list of 51 sensory diet activities. For more information about sensory integration, click here

Let us know which proprioceptive activities your child loves!

Yaron Ginsberg
Yaron Ginsberg


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