Proprioception. Yes, What-The-Fudge? Proprioception is defined as the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself. Hey you say? Also, you should have a sensory profile of each child so that you know which intervention to plan for them. Huh? The Sensory Profile indicates the modulation of sensory input across sensory systems, and sections which indicate behavioural and emotional responses that are associated with sensory processing. Confused? Don’t leave the post just yet! I cannot recall in my initial teacher training ever being confronted by this. Can you?
Being a district-based support person represents a challenge over time. Those of us who fall into this category, gradually and unconsciously loose touch with the classroom environment. Over time we cannot claim to be practitioners - we are not at the true coalface of teaching and learning - we become peripheral. So the challenge is to remain cutting-edge and relevant. One way is to spend time doing research, another is to mix with the practitioner and use these touch points to exchange notes, whether theoretical or practical ones. And to be open to learning as a two-way channel.
Yesterday I sat in a workshop run by the Occupational Therapist attached to our District. The workshop was focussed on Gr 1 and Gr R Educators. And the idea was that we understand why children fidget and what to do to get them to focus. Maritha showed the participants an array of goodies that can help the teacher to help the children in their classrooms.
So, let’s look at a few examples from this activity. The three examples are sourced from Angie Voss’s book entitled
"Understanding your child’s sensory signals”.
- constant tapping of objects or toys: The explanation is that tapping things provide proprioceptive input to the arms and hands as well as auditory input, both of which serve as a sensory anchor and may be calming and regulating for the nervous system. So, what can you do to help? provide fidget toys, clay, toys with levers, engage in clapping games and songs, embrace the use of musical instruments. Are you getting a sense? Let’s provide another example.
- biting fingernails: this provides proprioceptive input to the jaw joints as well as oral sensory input to the mouth and tactile input to the fingers. Solutions? offer bubble fountain and other resistant blowing activity such as a recorder, provide regular doses of deep pressure touch to the hands and fingers.
- constant pen clicking: this provides tactile and proprioceptive feedback to the hands and fingers as well as auditory feedback. All these inputs can be very soothing and regulating for the child’s nervous system. To address this, allow it if it doesn't distract others, or get the child to listen to music or ensure regular movement breaks when doing school work.
There are so many examples of proprioceptive inputs and how to address them, but we don't recognise this and too often, as educators, believe the child is misbehaving and then we resort to a punishment regime. Why? Because we are ignorant of the signal; we don't recognise it, so misdiagnose it, treat it incorrectly and wonder why the “remedy” has created further chaos. Does this scenario sound familiar to you?
This stuff is so simple and easy to manage, its scary. And all this advice is sitting in the heads of the people we are working with. Let’s spend some time engaging our colleagues and watch us grow collectively.