Proprioceptive Input

Proprioceptive input is a sensory technique using deep pressure that can change a child’s Recreational Therapy session completely. With the implementation of proprioceptive input into sessions, we have observed improvement in focus, self-regulation, attention span, emotional and behavioral responses, and an overall calming effect on the child’s mood. Ways we provide proprioceptive input into Recreation Therapy sessions is through the following: weighted items (weighted blankets, light wrist/ankle weights), deep pressure massage, joint compressions, therapy balls, trampoline, chew-safe items, and various tactile vibration massagers. Providing children with proprioceptive input is an effective, yet easy technique, as many children seek it.

Children with autism specifically, have sensory needs which can have an effect on their ability to engage in functional leisure play. These sensory deficits can make a child unaware of their body in space, making them appear clumsy or as if they have lost control of their limbs; these are signs of sensory-seeking behavior. The most obvious way children show signs of seeking proprioceptive input is by pressing their body against objects, or people around them. Other ways may be less obvious, and are often misunderstood as negative behaviors (chewing on a shirt, kicking/biting/hitting, forceful play, etc.); but we look at these behaviors differently, as if the child is trying to tell us something… that they need proprioceptive input!

We have found that a lack of proprioceptive input can captivate a child’s focus, resulting in a therapist spending large chunks of the session trying to redirect back to task. The simple placement of a weighted blanket across the child’s lap, adding light wrist/ankle weights, and/or providing chew-safe items during an activity can be enough to engage the child, improving the overall quality of a session. So, proprioceptive input equals more time to get things done!

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