What Did You Say? Body Awareness

Body Awareness

What is body awareness? I have this discussion all of the time with parents…especially in evaluations when describing observed movement patterns and mobility in the environment. I was recently describing what this term meant to a parent after noticing her hypotonic/“low tone” daughter was stumbling when trying to walk around and navigate the gym environment.

So, What is it?

Body awareness is the internal understanding of where your body is in space. It relies on “proprioceptive input” A.K.A, sensory information from your muscles and joints going to your brain. For example, I hold my arm out to the side of me. Now I close my eyes and still know that my arm is out to the side of me. At this moment, I know where my arm is in space in relation to the rest of my body. This is really important when orienting your body to the surrounding environment and navigating that environment.

Being aware of our body position is something that happens automatically and naturally. The proprioceptive sense allows us to position our bodies just so in order to enable our hands, eyes, ears, and other parts to perform actions or jobs at any given moment.

This awareness allows us to walk around objects in our path, to move a spoon to our mouth without looking at it, and to stand far enough away from others while waiting in a line at the grocery store.  It enables a student to write without pressing too hard or too lightly on their pencil when writing, and it helps us to brush our hair with just the right amount of pressure

Symptoms of Decreased Body Awareness?

  • Difficulty learning new movements - ESPECIALLY if that movement is a gross motor task. When a child with poor body awareness tries mimicking a movement or task, it is more challenging because they have a harder time understanding where their body parts are and how much to move them to mimic the movement.
  • Clumsy, uncoordinated - They will appear clumsy or uncoordinated for the same reasons. They may not realize how close their foot is to an object while walking because they have a harder time knowing where it is.
  • Don’t like the dark or closing their eyes - These children rely heavily on vision for feedback because of their poor ability to know where they are in space, so taking away their major feedback source by closing their eyes or being in the dark, makes it more challenging for them.

What do You do About it?

If you’ve heard your child’s therapist say this term before and not quite totally known what it means, then hopefully this helped! If you notice some of these things going on and haven’t heard it before…it’s okay! There are a few things you can try at home:

  • Pushing/pulling weighted objects - Laundry basket with things (i.e. cans, water bottles) in it to weight it down.
  • Jumping on a trampoline
  • Lifting and carrying weighted objects (weighted ball if you have it or books)

If they’re not as mobile, you can try giving some deep pressure to their arms and legs.

More questions? Contact us and we would be glad to help you!

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Christine Astarita