April is autism awareness month.
Day 6: proprioceptive senses
Dylan often has a blanket on his head, his hood up or his head covered.
For those not aware of the proprioceptive sense it basically means to have an awareness of our own bodies in space and time.
–For example, most of us know where our hands are without touching them.
– We know we are upright when standing and for example can easily gauge when there is a slope of step when we are walking. For this we can plan for the motion of adjusting to our environment as we are aware of where our bodies are in space.
As an element of his autism Dylan has a dysfunction with this system. He will often appear to be “limp” and lethargic all the time despite being very active. He will frequently bump into objects and people accidentally and will trip and fall often, this is all due to him not being aware of his limbs or feeling able to maintain awareness of where he is in relation to himself or anywhere else.
All elements of this affect his confidence and ability to integrate with others.
How do we know where our nose is or that we have a head on our neck without reaching up and feeling it? – We just do, because we have this ability to sense it. Dylan doesn’t have this so much so maybe having a blanket over it helps him feel grounded and safe, so he knows where his head is.
Dylan enjoys tight clothes; hoods, hats, jackets zipped ALL the way up, tight pyjamas etc to help him feel where his body is.
A deficiency in the proprioceptive system has been described as it can feel as if a person’s hands and feet are not attached to the main body but floating aimlessly around them with little control or that the feedback of an echo after a loud screech can help give the sense of where a person is within a room.
It can cause a variety of sensory seeking behaviours to be able to gauge placement and presence when unable to naturally gauge this. Examples include:
*walking too hard, pushing too hard, banging too hard, writing too hard, playing with objects too hard,
*People may be the ‘loud ones’ or ‘rough ones,’ crashers, runners, jumpers, and bouncers.
*People may shake their legs or constantly bang the back of their foot on the floor/chair whilst sitting.
*A child may play too rough or jump off of or crash into anything.
*Further behaviours include cracking knuckles; chewing on fingers, biting nails until they bleed, chew on pens, gum, pencils, clothing collars, sleeves, or strings, or inedible objects (i.e. paper clips, pieces of toys etc.)
A lot of these behaviours are considered bad or naughty, especially in schools or public places but the truth is but often cannot be helped.
It should be considered that these behaviours may be necessary to aid the person to be able to ‘find’ themselves spatially and opportunities to do these behaviours safely should be provided rather than be discouraged or disciplined.
The sensory seeking behaviour should be labelled and discussed to enable the person to feel understood about the difficulties they are having in their own bodies.
We need to be aware that while proprioceptive senses are considered a naturally occurring state if they are absent or disordered the impact affects the whole person.
Another little step of understanding.