Proprioception Autism: What is it and How Does it Affect Children?

Autism is a complex subject, and every child who is diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum will exhibit different behaviours. One type of autism that can affect children is proprioception autism which is related to the body’s ability to sense itself – which is a complicated subject within itself. In this blog post we will take a closer look at how it works, how it can affect children and how you can support children who are diagnosed with this type of autism.



What is Proprioception Autism?

Proprioception autism is very similar to vestibular autism (which we looked at I a previous blog post) as it is concerned with knowing where your body is within a space, and understanding boundaries to do with this when moving around and interacting with other people.

Proprioception centres around the receptors in our bodies, such as our skin, our muscles and our joints. These receptors connect with our brain through our nervous system which enable us to know what our body is doing even if we can’t see it. It may surprise you to know that although our vision plays a key role in our ability to see our body within a space, vision is not essential in order for us to understand our body ownership.


How can Proprioception Autism affect Children?

Many people who have been found to suffer from this particular type of autism have reported that they feel disjointed. It can manifest itself in children seeming uncoordinated and clumsy, and the most common signs include:

  • Poor Motor Control and Body Awareness. This can be seen as children having difficulty going up and down stairs, frequently bumping into people, and being unable to ride a bike
  • Poor Posture Control. An inability to stand on one foot, slumping when sitting or standing, and having to rest their head on the desk when working
  • Sensory Seeking. Plays roughly or pushes, bangs or shakes feet when sitting, chewing or biting.

Children who have proprioception autism also tend to self-regulate by engaging in behaviours that many may find disruptive, such as flapping, running or crashing into things.


How to Help Children with Proprioception Autism

As we have mentioned before, proprioception is to do with body awareness and helps us know how our body parts are moving and where our body is in a space. If your child is under-sensitive to body awareness then they may:

  • Stand too close to other people as they are unable to judge personal space and cannot measure their proximity to them
  • Find it hard to navigate rooms or avoid obstructions
  • Bump into other people when they are moving around

Ways to help children who are under-sensitive like this include:

  • Putting coloured tape on the floor to help children to identify boundaries
  • Positioning your furniture around the edges of the room and keeping the middle of the room clear to make it easier for them to navigate
  • Teaching them the ‘arms-length’ rule to help them to judge personal space more easily – meaning they stand an arms-length away from people at all times
  • Using weighted blankets to provide deep pressure for them

If their proprioception manifests itself as them being over-sensitive to things then they may:

  • Move their whole body to look at something
  • Have difficulties with fine motor skills such as tying their laces or doing up buttons

You can help children who are over-sensitive like this by:

  • Offering them the opportunity to undertake fine motor activities such as lacing boards and tossing balls


How to Manage a Childs Sensory Meltdown

Being over- or under-sensitive to things can cause children to meltdown sometimes, and it can be difficult to know how to calm them down when they are experiencing a sensory overload. As with all other tips that we share, it is important to remember that all children are different and something that works well for one child may not work for another. It is also vital that you are patient, loving and understanding while dealing with them as well. Some other tips to remember are:

  1. Identify what is triggering the meltdown and remove it. You will probably already be aware of certain things that your child is sensitive too such as riding on an overcrowded bus. The important thing to remember is to keep a record of what is happening when your child’s meltdown occurs so that you are more prepared to deal with it next time.
  2. Try distracting your child when they are having a meltdown. This tends to only work though if you can identify when your child is about to have a meltdown and so can distract them before they completely lose control. A great way to distract them is to do something that makes them happy such as singing a song, or making funny faces. The task you choose should be something that they find comforting and not over-stimulating as if they go into full meltdown mode you could actually make it worse by talking to them.
  3. Make your child feel safe. You need to remove any triggers for the child, and create a quiet cost environment where your child will feel safe, as they are in a quieter and more soothing space. Some parents chose to have a tepee or tent up at home so that their child has a space to retreat to, but this isn’t always possible when you are out, so the other option is to cradle your child in your arms until they calm down
  4. Remove any objects which may be dangerous to them such as hard objects that they may throw or glasses which may smash. You should also monitor your child until they are fully calmed down as well.
  5. Invest in a weighted blanket. These are a must have for children with proprioception autism as they can help the child’s body awareness to improve which can quickly reduce the severity of the meltdown.

We hope that this article has helped you understand proprioception a little bit more, and how it may affect your family. For more information on our specialist autism app and how to communicate with a nonverbal autistic child please get in touch with us today.