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Sensory issues and strategies to help: Week 4 (balance and body awareness)

from Caroline Pringle, Families and Professionals Advisor for child enquiries

Welcome to week 4 where I will cover balance and body awareness.

Remember certain reactions/experiences can be seen as hypo - low sensitivity or hyper - high sensitivity, for some children these can overlap and can also change over time.

Vestibular (inner balance) and proprioception (joints and muscles)

Vestibular (Balance)

How our body handles movement is down to our vestibular systems.


Low sensitivity

  • Need to rock, spin, swing

  • Likes hanging upside down

  • Moving in and out of their seats

High sensitivity

  • Difficulties with sport/movement

  • Low muscle tone

  • Difficulties stopping quickly during activities

  • Gets dizzy easily

  • Avoids walking downstairs

Solutions (these can overlap)

  • Linear movement (back and forwards) such as rocking, swinging, and rolling on a gym ball - not rotating movements.

  • Seesaws

  • Trampoline skills,

  • Break activities into small steps

  • Visual clues – finish line

  • Look at seating when at school, dinner table etc. try to have a position where feet are firmly on the floor.

  • If wanting to spin have regular stops

Proprioception (Body Awareness)

Proprioception is knowing what our body is doing and how it is moving. It helps us understand the force to use in activities such as getting dressed, using a toothbrush, eating. It helps us understand personal space and we can adjust our body position to give people that space.


Low sensitivity

  • May crash into things (poor spatial awareness)

  • Difficulty in seating themselves in a chair

  • Understanding personal space

  • Difficulty with knowing the force they are using

High sensitivity

  • Fine motor skills

  • Holding cutlery, using a pen/pencil

  • Problems with lacing shoes/buttons

  • Moving body to look at things

Solutions (these can overlap regarding the above sensitivities)

  • Threading activities

  • Colouring activities/crafts

  • Weighted items such as a backpack or lap pad

  • Moving objects such as a pile of books

  • Wall push ups

  • Bear hugs

  • Firm massage

  • Pushing and pulling activities

  • Household chores can help such as sweeping, digging, moving wheelie bins, pushing shopping trolley

Please note do not apply too much pressure or ask your child to push, pull, carry, or use something that is too heavy for them.

For balance and body awareness consider using hoops or carpet squares to reinforce personal boundaries, to help them know where to sit at school for ‘carpet time’. Also circle cushions with different fabric attached to the edges for them to fidget with when sitting may help. It may be a position wedge will help when seated at a table at school, it’s better if their feet are on the floor rather than dangling about if sitting at a table. You can also consider alterative seating such as therapy balls, bean bags, hokki stools.

Important – Try not to move around too much when talking or interacting with a child!


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