Proprioception is the sense of our body awareness. It subconsciously allows us to understand where our bodies are in relation to space as well as gives us motor control. Sensory receptors present in our skin, muscles, and joints are responsible for telling us where our different body parts are, how they move, and how much strength our muscles should be exerting for various tasks. Examples of proprioception in action would be being able to touch your nose with your index finger while your eyes are closed, going down the stairs smoothly, and applying appropriate pressure to crack open an egg.
These may sound like simple tasks but people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may process the same movements differently. It is reported that 95% of children with ASD have some degree of proprioceptive difficulties and they can be categorised into sensory avoiding (hypersensitivity) or sensory seeking (hyposensitivity).
Sensory Avoider: one who experiences heightened sensory input and avoid them when it’s too overwhelming
Do not like being hugged or kissed, even by family
Avoid bumping into objects or people
Difficulty chewing or chew very slowly and lightly
Avoid exerting pressure or hold items loosely
Do not like rough play or activities that involve bumping and crashing
Avoids all weight bearing activities e.g. carrying objects, avoids standing, prefer to be held or carried
Sensory Seeker: one who looks for more sensory stimulation
Difficulty judging personal space and may stand too close to others
Bites and chews on objects e.g. shirt sleeves or collars
Walk with loud, heavy steps
Prefer rough play and not knowing their own strength
Difficulty navigating rooms and avoiding obstructions
Engages in weight bearing activities e.g. climbing
*These are just some common signs observed in sensory seekers and sensory avoiders and may include others not listed here. Signs stated are not exclusive to each category and some people may show a combination of these reactions.
Benefits of PLAYBALL for Proprioceptive Dysfunction
The PLAYBALL is an interactive therapy ball that turns traditional ball exercises into fun and engaging gamified processes. With five games available to choose from, the PLAYBALL is ideal for anyone with proprioception dysfunction as it trains unilateral and bilateral coordination, visual spatial orientation and perception, visual tracking, and helps with muscle and joint strength building. It is a versatile device that allows you to carry out various body exercises (e.g. shoulder, hands, legs) and be used in a large number of ways (e.g. on the floor or table, against the wall). In addition, the PLAYBALL can be introduced as part of therapy sessions with your occupational therapist or even with a caretaker at home or in school.