Tools for Sensory Processing Disorder – Proprioceptive Dysfunction

What the heck is Proprioceptive Dysfunction? Yeah, that was my first response, too. Briefly, proprioception means “sense of self”. It is one of the many types of sensory processing disorder involving a little known sense called the proprioception system. This post’s goal is to help you identify sensory processing symptoms and give you a bit of guidance with sensory processing treatment as it relates to proprioceptive dysfunction.

I am not a medical professional but, like you, I am a parent of a highly sensitive child. My sensory processing related research leads me to the amazing resources that I absolutely must share with you. 

What are Proprioceptors?

Proprioceptors exist in the body’s limbs and act as sensors providing proprioceptive information about parts of the body such as joints, muscle length, and muscle tension. In other words, these sensors give information about the limb’s position in space. Proprioceptors can form reflex circuits with motor neurons to provide rapid feedback about body and limb position. There are many types of proprioceptors. For example, the muscle spindle is one type that provides information about changes in muscle length. With the muscle spindle, you will find muscle fibers that do a whole lot more than we need to go into within this article. 

Another type of proprioceptor is the Golgi tendon organ, which provides information about changes in muscle tension. If you would like to completely nerd out on how these proprioceptors talk to the brain, which is actually super fascinating, check out this University of Washington course website.

Sensory Processing Disorder

Let me give you a picture. My oldest son is a typically developing child. He is a sensory seeker. Proprioception is the sixth sense (not like the movie). It tells us about movement and position based on sensory input and feedback. So, if there is a little imbalance or out of sync factor with the body’s proprioceptors (found in muscles), then the person will experience proprioceptive dysfunction. There are many levels and aspects to this dysfunction. My son experiences a hyposensitivity to movement, which means that his vestibular system is under-responsive.

Not sure where to start? Check out this article: This Effective Tool is the First Step to Better Help Your Child

Proprioceptive Dysfunction

To put a definition in everyday terms, proprioception is the body’s way of using muscles based on incoming information. There are actually proprioceptors in our muscles and joints that help regulate (or not) this sense. A child who always reaches out to touch the wall or things in his surroundings is seeking regulation. Make sense? I know. It is a bit tough to get the mind around the concept.

Think about it as body awareness.

Think about the ability to know where the body is in relationship to our surroundings. 

What are the signs of this type of dysfunction? Let me give you a few examples. My son jumps for hours, spins without getting dizzy (or so it seems), has trouble sitting still at the table or his desk, chews on everything, enjoys play dough, can’t get enough of stress balls, loves hugs, reaches out to touch everything, grinds his teeth, and many more behaviors. His nervous system is simply wired differently from most other people, especially young children. 

Will he be successful in life?

Yes, I believe so.

Will he be happy?

I don’t know.

My job is to guide him along the way, to help his body develop in the ways it needs to develop unique to him. The many parts of a brain do not develop simultaneously.  When a therapist explained sensory processing issues in this way, I finally got it. The pace at which the frontal lobe develops is different or not in sync with the pace of the other parts of the brain, for example. No wonder why sensory integration is an obstacle for so many people. When I find a new and exciting sensory integration tool that not only helps my sons but is also fun, how can I not share it with you all? My sensory seeker loves these tools.

Proprioception Tools

Dynamic Movement BodySox ™

My son can’t get enough of the body sock. My almost 7-year-old sensory seeker watches movies in it, barely taking it off in time for bed. There is something remarkable about the bodysox. The BodySox is made of lycra. It stretches with the body and is breathable. You can place your whole body in the sox and move your body. My son watches movies in it. He uses it first thing in the morning. He loves it. The body sox come in different sizes to fit your child’s body.

Related Resource: Check out the 2o19 Super Sensory Bundle – Available Now

Bouncy Band

The bouncy band is a gem that I discovered at my son’s feeding therapy session. The Occupational Therapist offered a few suggestions to get us on the right track. One thing she suggested was always making sure something was under his feet when he sat at the dinner table, even if simply a box. So, I went researching and BAM, I found the Bouncy Band. His teacher loves the band and is buying more for her classroom.

Marnie Craycroft

Marnie hails from Maine where she spent summers buried in sand and winters buried in snow. She is the daughter of a nearly four decade veteran of the public school systems. Teaching has always been a part of her life. She founded Carrots Are Orange in 2010.

Carrots Are Orange is a Montessori learning and living website for parents and teachers.

Marnie graduated from Wesleyan University in 1999 with a BA in Economics. She spent nearly a decade working in investment management. In 2006, she earned her MA in business from the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business.

Marnie moved to the west coast in 1999 and currently lives in Boulder with her husband and three sons. She is Montessori trained. Her work has been featured on Apartment Therapy, Buzzfeed, PBS Kids, BabyCenter, the Melissa & Doug blog, Huffington Post, and WhattoExpect.com. Besides writing, passions include running (usually after her three sons), photography, and outdoor adventures.

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