What is Proprioception, Sensory Diet, and Sensory Integration Theory?
As we know, the five senses are: Touch - tactile, sound - auditory, sight - visual, taste - gustatory and smell - olfactory. Additionally, there are two other powerful senses: Vestibular sense and proprioception. Vestibular: the sense of movement and balance. The vestibular sense provides information about the position of the body in space and in relation to the earth's surface.
What is proprioception? Proprioception: the sense of joint/muscle. The proprioceptive sense provides information about where body parts are and what they are doing and is a vital aspect of motor control.
Intact proprioception allows the individual to determine his/her body’s position in space as well as to regulate the direction and amount of force to use when moving. The proprioception system is detected through sensory receptors in the muscles and the joints. The proprioceptive sense is stimulated when a child experiences pressure or moves his/ her limbs to push, pull, lift or hang. While engaging in activities that offer proprioceptive input, a child may also show improved attention and a more regulated arousal level. This is beneficial for learning, playing, socialising, and completing daily activities. Some kids have the need of more sensory input to be in a 'just right' state and stay calm at the right times. Proprioceptive input tends to have a calming and organising outcome on the body, in particular, when children are overexcited/ overstimulated/ overwhelmed/ hyperactive or tired.
What is a sensory diet? A sensory diet is a group of activities that are specifically scheduled into a child’s
day to benefit attention, arousal and adaptive responses. All the activities should be chosen according to the child's needs and in particular, based on sensory integration theory. What is Sensory Integration theory?
Sensory Integration is a theory developed by the occupational therapist A. Jean Ayres (Bundy & Murray, 2002). Ayres (1972) describes sensory integration as "the neurological process that organizes sensation from one's own body and from the environment and makes it possible to use the body effectively within the environment" (p. 11). The theory of sensory integration outlines the link between the brain and behaviour and demonstrates the reason why individuals have different responses to a sensory input as well as different behaviours. The sensory diet includes specific types of input such as proprioceptive, tactile, vestibular, visual, auditory, gustatory and oral motor during various times of the day. This input benefits the brain in regulating an appropriate level of arousal and attention. The sensory input leads to a release of neuro-chemicals. Depending on the type of the input and intensity, the neuro-chemicals can last up to two hours. In other words, the sensory diet aims to keep a flow of the neuro-chemicals steady in the brain throughout the day in order to help children's learning. A sensory diet is prescribed only by an Occupational Therapist (OT) or a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA).
Examples of proprioceptive and heave muscle activities are: rolling a large ball on a child that is lying on the floor, climbing activities, animal walks – bear & crab walks, rolling up in a blanket (regular or weighted), jumping on a trampoline, drumming, banging on ball, stacking chairs etc. Exercises such as yoga, running, swimming, and sports (tennis, basketball etc.). The activities should have a positive effect on a child. The activity should be stopped if the child reacts in a negative way to the input. So, why do some children climb, push, hang and lean on everything?
The answer is: Proprioception.
References Ayres, A. J. (1972). Types of sensory integrative dysfunction among disabled learners. American Journal of Occupational Therapy. Bundy, A. C., & Murray, A. E. (2002). Sensory integration: A. Jean Ayres’ theory revisited. In A. C. Bundy, S. J. Lane, & E. A. Murray (Eds.), Sensory integration: Theory and practice (2nd ed., pp. 3-33). Phila-delphia: F. A. Davis.