All About Proprioception and Kinesthetic Awareness

kids jumping on trampoline

Some say that we don’t just have 5 senses. I’ve learned that number senses is up in the air but most agree that there are at least 2 additional senses. In addition to sight, taste, smell, hearing, and touch there is also the proprioceptive sense or proprioception and the vestibular sense. The vestibular sense essentially deals with the inner ear and is the sense that controls balance. But today’s post is all about proprioception and kinesthetic awareness.

all about proprioception and kinesthetic awareness

What is Proprioception and Kinesthetic Awareness?

Close your eyes and bring your hand an inch from your nose…but don’t touch it! Now open your eyes. Did you smack your face with your hand by accident? Was your hand a foot away from your nose? Probably not. You were probably able to get your hand pretty close to your nose without touching it. That’s because of your proprioceptive sense or kinesthetic awareness.

Proprioceptive input is the body’s ability to sense itself and understand itself in its surroundings. This sense lets your brain knows what your body is doing, even if you can’t necessarily see your body doing it.

The sense of body awareness comes from the receptors in the joints and muscles sending signals to your brain. This information allows us to maneuver through to world properly. If our proprioceptive sense wasn’t working properly we might bump into walls or have trouble grasping objects…or smack ourselves in the face in the exercise above.

Not everyone has a perfectly functioning proprioceptive sense. When I think of proprioceptive dysfunction I often think about a Superhero that just gets his powers. In those movies there’s always a montage of the hero flying around trying to get a sense of how to use these new found powers. The superhero doesn’t know the correct amount of force or power to use which is just like someone who has issues with proprioception.

 

Sensory Seeking or Sensory Avoiding Behaviors

Everyone’s nervous system is different. Some process senses differently and proprioception is no different. Some kids will avoid proprioceptive input while others will seek them out. Here are some examples of proprioceptive avoidance behaviors. A great list can also be found on PediaStaff.com.

  • Seems lazy
  • Hates tags/certain clothing
  • Picky eater
  • Complains about lights being too bright
  • Doesn’t like messy activities

Those who seek proprioceptive input may exhibit behaviors like the following.

  • Walking loudly
  • Hits or bites
  • Poor personal space
  • Chewing non-food items
  • Climbing or jumping on things in a dangerous way

 

Some Heavy Work Activities for Proprioception or Kinesthetic Awareness

Heavy work is generally recommended as part of a sensory diet for children and adults who crave proprioceptive input. If you’ve never heard of it before, heavy work is defined as anything that involves resistance and engages the receptors in the joints and muscles. Pushing, pulling, jumping are all types of heavy work.

Therefore, those who need more input (seeking) should engage in heavy work in order to calm them or help organize the over stimulation they feel. Some examples of heavy work are:

  • Hanging from monkey bars
  • Carrying groceries
  • Putting on a heavy backpack
  • Pulling a wagon
  • Tug of war
  • Trampolines
  • Pogo sticks
  • Massages
  • Bear hugs
  • Playdough kneeding

Additional Resources for Proprioceptive Disorders

If you’re looking for more resources on proprioception and kinesthetic awareness visit one of the links below.

Proprioceptive Input: Sensory Processing Explained

SENSORY PROCESSING: PROPRIOCEPTION

Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder: Proprioceptive System

Proprioception Explained

SENSORY AND SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER

 

We hope you were able to learn more about proprioception and kinesthetic awareness. Let us know your favorite heavy work activities in the comments below!

 

Image by Pawel Loj from Flickr, modified.

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