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Proprioception...to seek or avoid?

Evening all! I hope your day has gone well. This evening I'm going to talk about proprioception and introduce some ideas for movement breaks that target this sense.


A seeker...their cup is empty and they want some more!


Often these are children, like my own, seem to bounce and crash around the place. I continually find myself saying "Stop! You are like a bull in a china shop", although at the age of six she really has no idea what this actually means! They can often be described as clumsy, have little awareness of their own strength and the idea of personal space may seem foreign to them. These are not necessarily children who don't understand the need for space, they just don't recognise how close they are standing (difficult in these times of social distancing as I found out this afternoon:-) ) and so very often you'll find yourself saying can you move back please, or having to space them apart from their siblings etc. These children will often love play fighting and rough play, seek out tight hugs, have heavy crashing footsteps and enjoy all jumping, climbing and bouncing activity.


I often refer to such children affectionately as the 'Labrador puppies of life' as they have little body awareness, limbs tend to fly everywhere, love hugs and closeness and are, just like such puppies so well meaning they just don't recognise their own strength, size or the amount of space that they require:-)


An avoider on the other hand can take it or leave it...


These are children who will avoid crowded places, won't want to be hugged (or if they do it will be on their terms, they won't welcome a random unpredictable snuggle!), won't enjoy rough play and will be the ones who are happy to go to the park to enjoy the sunshine, but are rarely seen on any of the playground equipment.


These children are often not socially awkward or anti social, they just don't enjoy being in that closer proximity with others and don't require the same amount of movement as their counterparts. For these children they may require a break, but these breaks could consist of more traditionally calming activities such as listening to music, gentle stretches, closing their eyes and deep breathing. These are still movement breaks, but they do not require such big movements as your seeking child will.


If you have siblings who are chalk and cheese, think about whether or not it could be related to their sensory profiles, and how you can use the cup exercise from yesterday to help them better understands each others likes and dislikes.


Please remember that it is not always this simple, many children show a combination of seeking and avoiding behaviour when regulated, but it is often when dysregulated that their 'true' preferences shine...an unfocused seeker will start moving and jumping around, whereas an unfocused avoider may need to retreat to gather themselves before the next stage.

Movement breaks:


1) I've just carried out a maths lesson on a Swiss ball with an extremely seeking 6 year old:-) And you know what...it really worked! So thought for the day...if you do a task involving movement then there is no need for a movement break! I've realised over the last two weeks that my daughter needs to move in order to stay alert and focused. So why go through the battle of insisting that your child sits still or carries out maths (or any other subject!) in the conventional way when they could do an active session e.g. bouncing on the ball whilst answering time problems (this was our focus today!). I know there will be many who will say "Oh but that will only work for younger children", but actually introducing movement into a task is proven to work for office workers where siting on a Swiss ball has been deemed to be better for posture and core strength development. For an older child if they are doing a more 'static' task such as a past paper or worksheet, could they not complete a set of questions on a clip board whilst jumping up and down on a Swiss ball?


If you don't have one at home, this is a piece of equipment that I would highly suggest getting as they are so useful and versatile! They are great for giving subtle movement throughout a seated activity, but also can be used during big movement breaks to give increased proprioceptive feedback.


2) Any heavy work that requires muscle work is a great movement break for proprioceptive feedback: push-ups, wall pushes, pushing pairs, carrying of shopping/ heavy bags, weight lifting (tins of beans are just as good if you don't have any weights) and squats.


3) Jumping is a great movement break - and there are so many different jumps you can do: jumping jacks, star jumps, two feet jumps, hopping, bunny jumps, frog leaps and jumping on and off steps.


4) Animal movements - this is one of my favourite movement breaks as you can select three different animals to be and have a competition of who makes the most convincing snake, gorilla, tiger or bird etc.


5) Wheelbarrow walking - this is a lovely movement break as it provides a good short workout to all the body and therefore provides a high level of feedback to the proprioceptive system.


See you tomorrow for the vestibular system!


Hannah OT:-)






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