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OT Articles >> Classroom Sensory Strategies for Proprioception Input

Classroom Sensory Strategies for Proprioception Input

Contributed by Karena Bui, MA, OTR/L

What is Proprioception?

Refers to compression (weight-bearing or pushing, etc.) and traction which stimulates propriocaptive nerves in the joints where muscles attach. This gives the body very important sensory feedback and internal awareness of our body parts to allow us to perform tasks with coordination.

What are the benefits?

To stimulate proprioceptive sensors, do heavy work tasks. A benefit of doing heavy jobs is that you are using groups of larger muscles, which helps your brain work better so you can focus on fine motor tasks like writing, reading, and drawing. The movement provided during heavy work activities often helps increase a child's level of alertness. Heavy work activites contribute to a child's body awareness, motor planning ability, and the development of stability for coordination.

How can I offer heavy work activities to the student?

You can try having them do some heavy work as a break between work time, before engaging in a quiet/fine motor/cognitive tasks, or anytime to promote coordination. See below for examples of heavy work.

Being a Classroom Helper:

  • Place chairs on desks at end of day or take down at begining of day.
  • Erase or wash the chalkboard.
  • Help rearrange desks in the classroom.
  • Help out the janitor with emptying wastebaskets, mop the floor, etc.
  • Sharpen pencils with a manual sharpener.
  • Cut out items for display with heavy weight paper like tag board.
  • Have students carry heavy notebooks to the office or from class to class (or if he/she is brining attendance up to the office, have the student wear a weighted vest or backpack with a heavy book inside).
  • Carry books with both hands hugging the book to yourself.
  • Have child pass out papers/objects to the class members.
  • Push the lunch cart or carry lunch bin to the cafeteria.
  • Staple paper onto bulletin boards.
  • Open doors for people.

Playground or in Class:

  • Help the P.E. teacher move mats, etc.
  • Climbing activities (such as playground equipment)
  • Run around the track at school
  • Push against a wall (do "push-ups" for count of 10 against a wall)
  • Sports activities involving running and jumping
  • Animal walks (crab walk, bear walk, army crawl)
  • Jumping jacks
  • Sitting and bouncing on a therapy ball counting down from 100.
  • Slowly roll ball over child a few times like steamroller with sight pressure as she lays on her back or tummy
  • Mini trampoline, jumping 30 times
  • Push another child on a swing
  • Playing tug of war with a big exercise rubberband or rope

Other Exercises and Tips:

  • Teachers have successfully used beanbag chairs in their classroom, allowing kids to use them during silent reading time or to lay over or under them during independent work tasks to get a chair in position and the benefit of consistent pressure input. More of a passive mechanism, but definitely helpful for many students.
  • Give child firm pressure on shoulders
  • Have the child color a rainbow with large paper on the floor in quadruped position.
  • Chair push-ups (seated in chair, try to push your body up for 10 counts; works better with chair with arms)
  • Quiet squeeze toys such as a squishy cow. Kids can be taught to squeeze the cow or the likes of him on their laps under their desks so as not to disturb the class.
  • Prior to seat work, have child pinch, roll, pull theraputty or squeeze ballons filled with flour.
  • Finder fidget activities for fine motor: do these before a fine-motor academeic task for 1-3 minutes
    • pinches
    • spider push-ups
    • rubber band stretches
    • fidget balls
    • theraputty
    • hole punching

The idea is to do these regularly and frequently to give the child the sensory input the body may need to regulate itself.

These same strategies may be used during times to help calm the child if the child is frustrated or overly aroused.



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