Muscles and Joints, Reporting In
The word “proprioceptive” comes from the Latin proprius, or “own,” plus receptive. However he reacts to information coming in from the outside world, you expect your child to be receptive to the signals that are contained in and coming from his own body — the location of his limbs, the position of his joints, the speed and force with which his muscles are moving.
They're the most basic of impressions, the ones that define your own body, where it begins and ends and how it moves. Yet for children with sensory integration disorder, even this fundamental information can become fuzzy. Proprioception becomes poor reception.
Just as tactile information comes through the skin, auditory information through the ears, visual information through the eyes, vestibular information through the inner ear, gustatory information through the taste buds, and olfactory information through the nose, proprioceptive information comes through receptors in the muscles, joints, and bones.
Much of the information never makes it to conscious thought. You don't often think about how your arms and legs are placed and what's moving where and when. You're likely to notice it only when something changes — when different shoes make your feet feel heavier, an awkward position gives you a cramp, a sudden bout of claustrophobia makes you feel that you must move at once.
You may also notice it when you lose it — when your arm becomes numb from sleeping on it, or illness or medication gives you a feeling of disconnection from your body. Either way, it's an unsettling feeling.
Unsettled is exactly the way your child feels if she is not getting good information from her proprioceptive sense. Those feelings you experience only intermittently — of compulsion to stamp a tingling foot, move about when you're claustrophobic, or adjust your limbs when you're cramped — are feelings your child may live with every day.
Unlike other senses, where behavior for kids who are underreactive tends to be desperately sensory-seeking and those who are overreactiveare just as desperately sensory-defensive, children who have problems with proprioceptive input may react much the same way, with a lot of hard movement.
If her proprioceptive system is overreactive, she may have to concentrate constantly on sensations that are meant to hum softly in the background of her body's activity. And if she's underreactive, she may have to engage in wild movement just to learn anything at all about where her body is and what it's doing.
Your child doesn't understand why he's doing all this. He just knows he needs to do it to make himself comfortable. That process may not look comfortable to you. It may involve hitting his head, throwing his body against things, rocking back and forth, or moving in unusual ways. But before rushing in to stop it, see what effect the activity has on your child. If he winds up calmer afterward, there may be a method to his seemingly mad behavior.