Using Proprioception To Teach Kids To Be More In Touch
Proprioceptive activities or senses are organized around how we orient ourselves to the world around us. This can involve many different types of movements, such as eye contact, listening, grasping, and touching. It is important for kids to learn these activities. Studies have shown that when kids first begin school, some of these activities are more easily picked up by them. For example, eye contact is one of the first skills they are able to master, and eye contact is easier to pick up among older children than among younger children.
A lot of our experiences start in the early years of life, and some of those events, like learning to walk, develop hand-eye coordination or proprioceptive input (sometimes referred to as ‘inner ear awareness’). Learning a skill or being attentive to an object helps us prepare for other experiences. Some of these experiences, like seeing, touching, hearing, and speaking all have proprioceptive input. The brain has a specific piece of tissue named the periaqueductal grey matter that houses this sensory information; it is activated when there is any sort of activity, and it responds to touch, sound, and movement in a variety of ways.
One way that kids with sensory integration disorders can demonstrate hand-eye coordination is by picking household chores or performing them correctly. For example, if they have trouble picking something up off of the floor, they can put it down before picking it up or pick it up and move it to a different part of the floor. They can also pick up small things that they shouldn’t be able to reach, like a pencil that they shouldn’t be able to reach. All of these actions are an example of proper proprioceptive activities.
Children with PD can have many normal kinds of proprioceptive activities, but because their dominant hand is not used to hold the object, they will likely make mistakes in applying deep pressure e.g. blowing bubbles using their dominant hand, or holding two objects by their respective sides. The same thing applies if they are blowing bubbles in one hand while trying to hold something in the other hand.
Another way that kids with PD can demonstrate gross motor skills and other gross motor skills is by using a weighted blanket. A weighted blanket is basically an elastic object that is wrapped around the entire body; it provides for body support and body awareness. The same thing applies to kids with PD as they use a weighted blanket to strengthen hand-eye coordination. Some examples of gross motor skills that can be improved with a weighted blanket include walking on a rug, picking up things that are tossed, stretching, using the blanket to massage sore muscles, and throwing items such as balls and blocks.
Teachers should take advantage of this potential for understanding children with PD by ensuring that they incorporate PD into their lessons. At the end of each lesson, it is important for teachers to have students complete a proprioceptive tasks, such as taking a specific object from the classroom, placing it in their textbook, or asking a child to touch an object that is lying on the ground. The goal is to provide students with the opportunity to take part in some type of activity that is relevant to what is happening in the lesson. For example, when students place the textbook down after reading, the teacher should take a few minutes to ask them whether they remember how to pick up the book. If they do not remember, this teacher should remind them about the importance of picking up the book the right way.
The benefits of this approach are obvious. Firstly, it allows students to experience some direct sensory input (although this could be just a light touch or a soft brush on the skin). Secondly, it gives kids a chance to improve their motor skills or to increase their depth perception. Finally, it provides kids with the opportunity to use their own creativity to generate new information or to adapt what they have learnt.
So can you teach your kids to use these types of sensory processing techniques? A great way is to have a variety of sensory activities in the classroom available to teach kids. Pair up the different wheelbarrows and containers, for instance, and rotate them around for some interesting activity. Have one student handle the wheelbarrow while another explores the container. You will quickly notice that technique is the most effective at engaging with children.