Proprioception (External Bodily Awareness)


Proprioception, also known as kinesthesia, is the body’s intrinsic ability to locate itself and its extremities in space using receptors in the skin, muscles, joints, and ligaments. It’s also responsible for knowing how much effort to use when performing simple tasks, such as lifting a glass or using a pencil. Children with proprioceptive processing issues may have trouble gauging their own strength, or they may appear clumsy and frequently bump into walls, furniture, or other people.

Proprioception isn’t as commonly known as sight or smell, but it’s a critical component of knowing how your body is positioned in relation to the world around you and how it should be moving. It’s how you’re able to walk up a flight of stairs while looking at your phone or find your way to the bathroom in a dark house.

Proprioception Seeking Proprioception Avoiding
  • Enjoys jumping, hopping, bumping, and crashing into people and objects—sometimes to the point of being unsafe
  • Prefers rough play and is constantly wrestling with siblings or other children
  • Tends to stand too close to others or touches without permission
  • Craves bear hugs
  • Avoids hugs and other physical contact/pressure
  • Is very timid around peers and does not join in physical play
  • Proceeds cautiously around swings, slides, and other playground equipment
How to Support How to Support
  • Have your child assist with chores that put pressure on the joints (carrying grocery bags, laundry baskets, etc.).
  • Encourage safe climbing, jumping, running, and other playground activities.
  • Use a weighted blanket to provide pressure and comfort.
  • Give bear hugs when asked.
  • Engage in deep pressure therapy.
  • Acknowledge your child’s discomfort and patiently work to reduce anxiety.
  • Advise family and friends that physical contact is not desired.
  • Be cautious and attentive around swings, slides, and other playground equipment.

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