Proprioception , meaning “one’s own” and perception, is the sense of the relative position of parts of the body. Unlike the traditional five senses by which we perceive the outside world, proprioception tells you whether your body is moving or sitting still, as well as where your body parts are located in relation to one another.
Children with Autism frequently show signs of proprioceptive dysfunction. Do these sensory seeking behaviors sound like your child?
- Loves to crash into walls repeatedly
- Stomps when walking
- Kicks the chair or hooks feet around chair when sitting
- Prefers tight or multiple layers of clothing
- Chews on fingers, pens, Nintendo DS styluses (I have bought many of these!)
- Asks for and gives tight squeeze bear hugs
- Bumps and pushes other children
Does your child also have difficulty with:
- Regulating pressure when writing – writes too dark or light
- Breaking toys
- Using too much force, like slamming doors, squeezing objects, or setting them down forcefully
- Petting animals too hard
Children with poor spatial orientation often walk with an odd gait, are unusually clumsy, and sometimes even lean to one side. Riding a bicycle is something they simply can’t get the hang of. They do not feel their bodies in relation to space, and as a result do not feel grounded or safe.
According to Dr. Robert Melillo’s Disconnected Kids, a child can function normally without sight or sound, but will struggle immensely with any degree of proprioceptive dysfunction. We resist gravity using our large muscles and joints. In fact, gravity is such a strong stimulus that life cannot survive very long without it. Scientists have tested the effects of the lack of gravity on the brain, concluding that there is a rapid brain cell degeneration that occurs in outer space. NASA noted that some astronauts actually returned from space missions with sensory processing issues similar to children diagnosed with learning disabilities. That’s powerful.
Here’s another amazing test by scientists at the University of California at Berkley: when rats used their muscles and joints in new ways their brain plasticity increased. When sent into space, these same types of rats showed reverse plasticity and marked degeneration of the brain cells.
Help and Hope
So perhaps this illustrates a direct correlation between a sedentary routine (video games, computer use, television) and the continued struggle with proprioceptive dysfunction. Incorporating an Autism Fitness program into your child’s schedule along with specific sensory exercises designed to strengthen brain function can dramatically improve your child’s sensory processing function.
Melillo’s groundbreaking research and results show a disconnection between the left and right sides of the developing brain hemispheres as the underlying cause of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and other PDDs. He has proven that the brain is not hardwired and can change with the right stimulation for the right amount of time, either with exercises done at home or through the Brain Balance Centers he founded.