What exactly is proprioception? It’s the 6th sense. Literally. And nope, until a month ago I hadn’t heard of it either. Basically it’s our awareness of our body, the sensations we feel inside us, in our joints and muscles, etc. It’s the reason we know where our nose is even though we can’t see it. It comes so naturally to most of us that we don’t even notice it, but for a child with autism, seeking proprioceptive input is a thing. If you have a sensory seeker, you may want to consider ways of incorporating proprioceptive input into their lives each day.
My Personal Experience With Proprioception
This is a personal story and I won’t share any of the intimate details. My son, J, struggled most of the school year with meltdowns at school. There are many triggers there for him and it’s often a challenge to get him through the morning, let alone the full day. With as many people involved as possible through the school system we still haven’t solved this problem. One day in particular in early June was literally the worst day he has ever had. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but it was so bad that the principal called and suggested I take him to the nearest emergency room for a mental health crisis.
This day also happened to be the first day he was to attend an afterschool program specifically for children with ASD. It’s a group for all ages created and ran by ABA therapist and occupational therapists. (FYI my son is the worst transitioner EVER! – this meltdown stemmed from wanting to avoid the program) So, queue meltdown. I called the director of the program and let her know what was going on and to tell her we wouldn’t be able to make it today after all. She told me to bring him straight over to her because they had the tools to help there.
This is What Calmed Him Down, in Seconds: The Body Sock
When we arrived I took J down to the gym and there were already a few things ready for him. The first thing he tried was the body sock. This is amazing sensory tool. The director explained proprioception to me and explained why so many children of all ages enjoy the body sock. It provides WHOLE BODY feedback for sensory seekers. It is incredibly calming. When my son got in it, I watched him change within seconds from meltdown to calm. It was a surreal experience. It was like he finally found RELEIF from what he was going through. I was sold immediately and ordered one online to use at home.
When it arrived at our house, he was turned off at first by the smell. His sense of smell is very sensitive. So I washed it in our regular laundry soap and threw it in the dryer. It washes just like any other clothing, I didn’t experience any shrinking. When it finished drying he was ready to use it. This is the real deal. He played in it for a couple of hours. You can see through and breath through the material so he was able to tuck his head in, too.
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Proprioception: Signs Your Child Would Benefit From Proprioceptive Input
Of course not all children benefit and enjoy the same activities because no two children are alike. Your child might benefit from proprioceptive input if:
- They enjoy hiding under blankets/ pillows
- They sleep with a weighted blanket or use a weighted vest
- They enjoy pillow fights
- They like being inside smaller spaces like a tent or a crawl through tunnel
- They are often clumsy, bumping into walls, stubbing toes, etc.
I will be sharing more information about proprioception and more ways we incorporate proprioceptive input in your child’s day soon, from toys to activities and games. It’s become an amazing tool for our family in calming and preventing meltdowns and I hope it can help you too.