Sensory Series – Proprioreception

Introduction to Proprioreception


Along with the vestibular sense, the proprioreceptive sense is gaining awareness and understanding at least within the professional fields associated with autism and sensory processing disorder. Proprioreception is our position sense, and it underlies our ability to position our body parts in space, be aware of our body without looking, and grade movements, force and pressure.

Proprioreception also aids in motor planning and co-ordination and so difficulties with this sense can cause problems with confidence and emotional security for individuals. This can be a particular difficulty in Physical Education in school, and it is important that teachers and P.E coaches are aware of the proprioreceptive sense.

Proprioreception doesn’t fit as neatly into hyper/hypo categories and so I will split it and discuss it in a different manner.

Seeking Proprioreception input

Some indicators that this is what the individual is doing include:

  • Is generally “heavy handed” they use too much force doing anything, whether it’s opening doors or playing with toys – breakages are frequent.
  • Pulls, twists or pulls their own body parts – hands commonly.
  • Walks around touching walls and objects.
  • Crashes into things, tackles things, enjoys rough play.
  • Enjoys wearing tight clothing.
  • Accidentally injures others during play or may engage in self-injurious behaviour to receive desired input.


Difficulty with awareness of body in space and motor planning

Some indicators that this is what is affecting the individual include:

  • Difficulty with a range of physical activities including running, cycling, skating, rollerblading, playing many team sports.
  • Difficulty moving their own body to get dressed or to wash self.
  • Struggles to maneuver day-to-day without bumping into people or objects, or tripping or falling over.
  • Seem anxious and fearful, and may have difficulty navigating stairs or stepping down off of ledges of any height.
  • May not know what their body is doing if they are not looking at that body part, for example the person who drops what they are holding as soon as they look away from their hands.


Poor stability of body

Some indicators that this is what is affecting the individual include:

  • Slumps when sitting, whether it’s at a desk, on the sofa, or on the floor.
  • Body appears limp in it’s movement, limbs seem uncontrolled when they are used.
  • Lethargic and tired movements.
  • Poor posture during tasks – difficulty in keeping core upright for sitting or standing activities, may slide to side.
  • Finds any balancing activities very difficult, the proneness to falling over may make them anxious about doing any activities that require them to balance.


Obvious, proprioreception and difficulties associated with it can have far-reaching consequences including potential harm to the individual or others, and the risk of being bullied or ostracised due to “clumsy” behaviour, and lack of ability in sporting activities. These can lead to a huge amount of anxiety and a lack of self-esteem in those who experience any of the above mentioned manifestations of the proprioreception sense being disordered.

Disclaimer: The opinions and information provided in this post are my own, and based on personal, educational, and work-based experience. They do not reflect the opinions of any of the authors of the content referenced in this post. I am not affiliated or supported by any organisation, and this is meant to be an educational series of posts. The information posted here is not a substitute for advice and information provided by your own GP, speech and language therapist, occupational therapist or other professional in the field of autism, and should not be taken as such.

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