Body awareness relates to knowing where your body is in a defined space. It is also linked to our proprioceptive system (the input that we get from our joints and muscles). Children who have poor body awareness may have a difficult time in functioning at a certain age level due to the subsequent difficulty that they may have when learning new tasks.
Here are a few signs that signify poor body awareness in children:
- Prefer to be in small rooms as opposed to wide open spaces. They may also prefer confined spaces, such as forts, closets or being under blankets. Children with poor body awareness feel more secure in small spaces rather than open areas because they have a better idea of where they are in space.
- Do not like to be in the dark or do not like to close their eyes. In order to make up for the fact that he or she has poor body awareness, children may rely on what they see in order to know where they are. If he or she is in a dark room, they may not understand where they are in that defined space.
- Like big bear hugs. Due to their decreased processing of proprioceptive information, children may prefer to be squeezed tightly because it gives a lot of input to their joints and muscles.
- Have difficulty mimicking movements, such as hand games or licking lips. When someone else shows them something they want the child to imitate, a child with poor body awareness may not understand how to move their body in the same way because they have a harder time understanding where their body parts are and how much to move them.
- Has a hard time learning new gross motor activities, such as jumping jacks. Gross motor activities rely heavily on the input children get to their muscles and joints when jumping on the ground or climbing. Since children with poor body awareness have a difficult time processing that feeling to their body, learning these activities are more difficult for them. As a result, these children may need to look in the mirror to learn new gross motor tasks. This is because children have to see what they are doing in order to learn how to manipulate their body in that manner.
- They may seem clumsy. Children who trip over objects or their own feet do so because they don’t know where their body parts are.
These issues occur because children usually compensate by using their vision in order to know where they are. In order to improve body awareness, occupational therapy can help to improve their ability to process the feeling of movement to their joints and their muscles. In order to learn new tasks, compensatory strategies can be used in order to help them keep up with their peers, such as using visual cues to help them learn new activities or breaking down tasks to make them simpler until they have mastered those skills.
Overall, occupational therapy can help identify solutions for children in order to improve their body awareness so that they may be more coordinated, confident and safe when performing age-appropriate activities!