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Resources

For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

Proprioceptive Input

January 2016 | Katie Frank, PhD, OTR/L - Occupational therapist, Adult Down Syndrome Center

Many individuals with Down syndrome (DS) experience difficulty with their proprioceptive system. The proprioceptive sensors in our body are responsible for providing feedback so we know where our body is in space.                                                                           

When our proprioceptive sensors aren’t working like they should, someone may experience difficulty with motor coordination, meaning they appear clumsy. This could also impact a person’s ability to actually carry out a movement even though they know how to do it, this is called motor planning. They may carry out activities and have difficulty grading their movements, perhaps they do things too hard or too soft. Another feature is the person may have difficulty with postural stability so they often appear slumped over or lethargic.

In order to activate these receptors and improve a person’s proprioceptive system, the following activities can be encouraged throughout the day to get natural input into a person’s joints. These activities can be done in preparation for a transition or when you start to see a person becoming worked up. For instance, they need to complete a series of self-care tasks in the bathroom but often require verbal prompts to initiate the activity. Provide proprioceptive input to see if it helps restart their body and prepare to complete the required task. This also goes for transitions. Do you ever need to leave the house and your loved one with DS doesn’t want to go? Try some proprioceptive input to see if it helps them transition. These activities may not be effective once a person is having a tantrum or melt-down.

  • Animal walking (like bear or crab, even crawling like a cat or dog, or hopping like a bunny)

  • Jumping up and down, maybe even on a trampoline

  • Dancing

  • Jumping jacks

  • Push-ups on the floor or against the wall

  • Bouncing on a therapy ball

  • Sitting on a sit-disc

  • Riding a bike/scooter

  • Sports like swimming, yoga, Pilates, and martial arts

  • Completing an obstacle course

  • Carrying a heavy backpack

  • Moving furniture

  • Pushing a cart/stroller/wagon

  • Rolling up in a blanket like a burrito

  • Bear hugs or being squeezed between pillows or cushions

  • Using Play-Doh or TheraPutty

  • Log rolling

  • Vibration

  • Weighted blankets

  • Sitting in a beanbag chair

  • Rocking in a rocking chair or on a glider

  • Strength training activities with a TheraBand or light weights

  • Throwing a weighted ball

  • Joint compression (see handouts on upper body and lower body joint compression)

  • Massage

  • Yard work like raking and shoveling

  • House work like vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, washing windows, and wiping down the counter

  • Eating chewy or crunchy foods

  • Sucking through a straw

 

For any questions, please contact Katie Frank, PhD, OTR/L at 847-318-2331 or katherine.frank@aah.org

Please note: The information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for a medical, psychiatric, mental health, or behavioral evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment plan by a qualified professional. We recommend you review the educational material with your health providers regarding the specifics of your health care needs.

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