Proprioception – Your awareness of your own body

Imagine that your whole neighbourhood goes into blackout, and your house becomes dark. Now, you have to navigate yourself to the kitchen and to find emergency candles in one of the drawers. Somehow, you’re able to maneuver your body’s position, recognise where you’re stepping and what your hands are reaching for, despite not being able to see anything in the dark. 

Being able to do all that means that you have an intact proprioceptive system! So what is proprioception?

On top of the 5 sensory systems that we commonly know of, there are 3 other sensory systems that also play a big part in our lives, which are vestibular, proprioception and interoception. Proprioception is the sense that tells you how hard you’re stepping on the stairs, how much pressure you are exerting when you’re rolling out dough, how lightly you are stroking a newborn baby and so much more!

Understanding proprioception


Proprioception is the conscious and unconscious awareness of the body’s position and movement. It involves the muscles and joints of the body, which communicate with each other in order for your brain to make sense of your body’s position. 

It is enabled by the sensory receptors within our  tendons, ligaments, joints, and muscles, which transmit information to the brain. The receptors recognise whether our muscles are bending or contracting, if our joints are bending or straightening, and by how much. The proprioceptive receptors not only help us with our body awareness, but also sensory regulation, emotional regulation and lowering arousal levels with movements that calm us down and help us to be attentive of our surroundings.

Proprioceptive processing difficulties 


If sensory input is not received properly or processed effectively, it will result in proprioceptive difficulties. Listed below are the some of signs that you should look out for in your child;

  • Does an excessive amount of rough and tumble play 
  • Not able to coordinate his own movements to climb up the stairs, ride a bicycle, or climb on monkey bars 
  • Constant bumping or crashing into things or other people
  • Clumsiness
  • Kicking while sitting, or foot stomping when walking or going up the stairs 
  • Likes and wants to be wrapped or hugged very tightly, or to be dressed in tight clothing
  • Presses really hard on the paper when writing or drawing 
  • Uses too much force in carrying or opening, leading to dropping, spillage or breakage of objects
  • Needs to bite or chew very frequently

How to enhance your child’s proprioceptive processing 


These are some of the strategies that may help your child’s proprioceptive processing: 

  • Participating in activities requiring heavy muscle work 
  • Providing them with deep pressure hugs or rolling them in blankets like a burrito
  • Allow time at the playground to encourage as many movements as possible. If they look unsure of how to play and use the playground equipment – do a lot of modelling to show/tell them how to do it  
  • Play activities that encourage a lot of body imitation; where they have to imitate another person’s poses, such as – posing in front of a mirror, Simon Says, sensorimotor songs like Hokey Pokey, Pat-A-Cake, Incy-Wincy Spider etc. 


For a more tailored programme of activities for your child, do consult your child’s occupational therapist. If you have any concerns about your child’s sensory integration skills, seek professional medical advice and strategies from your occupational therapist to help support your child. 

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