Proprioceptive avoiders are highly sensitive to movement and pressure tend to become overwhelmed or distracted by physical contact. Avoiders often have extreme or upsetting reactions to even very mild stimulation. As a result, they can appear withdrawn or defensive and have trouble fitting in with their peers. They also frequently experience symptoms associated with anxiety disorders and engage in repetitive self-soothing behaviors.
See below for some ways to identify and support proprioceptive avoiders.
Proprioceptive Avoiders May:
- Avoid physical contact with others.
- Appear very timid around peers and avoid physical play.
- Refuse to play around slides, swings, and other playground equipment.
- Become anxious in crowded spaces or when standing even somewhat close to others.
- Be unable to properly assess risk in their physical environment. For example, they may believe they can fall into the small gap between the floor and an elevator.
How to Support Your Proprioceptive Avoider:
- Warn family and friends ahead of time that hugging and touching is not desired.
- Be attentive and comforting around playground equipment and other children.
- Give verbal cues regarding your surroundings and properly contextualize the risks. (“There is a gap in the floor by the elevator. It is smaller than your foot. You cannot fall in. Let’s step over it together.”)
Keep in mind that no two children are exactly alike, and most people exhibit both seeking and avoiding behaviors from time to time. If you think your child might be suffering from sensory processing issues, you should seek a professional assessment. The STAR Institute’s Treatment Directory is a great resource that can help you find therapists, doctors, and community resources in your area.