Wednesday, May 28, 2014

'Steamrolling' Through Proprioceptive Input

Deanna Macioce, MS, OTR/L

As teachers, parents, and therapists, we learn more and more each day about sensory processing, especially in our everyday life.  We see how the world around us is always feeding our sensory systems, and how it effects our interactions with the environment and others. In turn, we begin to get a better understanding of what it means for our children, especially those who have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). We all love a good bear hug or that great deep pressure massage, right?  Well, that is not true for everyone however, we have found that providing activities that elicit proprioceptive input offers a realm of benefits.

Proprioception plays a major role in overall self-regulation for children who demonstrate difficulty with tactile input, focus, attention, and body awareness.  Understanding proprioception and the effect that it has on the body is sometimes very complex since it also affects the tactile and vestibular systems.   Having a functional proprioceptive system helps improve body awareness, postural control and stability, and motor planning.

So often we hear about trying to find ways to address proprioception with heavy work activities. With success, these activities will help our children motor plan with greater ease, understand where their bodies are in space, attend better, and demonstrate improved postural control.   These activities help with organizing and calming a child's sensory system. There are numerous activities that help provide proprioception, especially in our day-to-day routines.   Carrying a backpack, climbing at the playground, loading and unloading groceries, as well as participating in yard work, just to name a few.

Within the therapy setting, there are many pieces of equipment out there to assist with the various needs of children who demonstrate sensory processing concerns, but one that is very successful and versatile at providing the proprioceptive input so often desired is the Southpaw Steamroller.  The Steamroller is a great addition to any obstacle course, providing the necessary deep-pressure input for a calming effect. It also is an ideal place to have your child hang out to complete an activity such as a puzzle, reading a book, or doing a maze for continuous input. The Steamroller allows you to be creative because is easy to attach to a theme, such as making pancakes or going through a car wash.  Set out cars on one end and have a child go in and out of the Steamroller multiple times to take the cars through the car wash. In addition to providing deep pressure, it is an excellent way to address improving shoulder strength and stability, as well as motor planning.  As a child negotiates his or her way into the machine, they pull themselves out with their arms giving them just enough support to work on shoulder strength.

Whether you have direct access to the Steamroller or not, take the time to focus on proprioceptive input for our children this month with new ways to use the Steamroller or finding ways to provide it in those activities already happening naturally at home.