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Internal Senses: Understanding Proprioception and Vestibular

Nov 1, 2023

Our senses are simply A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! External and internal senses construct our world as well as our experiences. The little-known internal senses, Proprioception and Vestibular, play an extraordinary role in your child’s development. We’re moving beyond the 5 senses that we know and love best so we can zero in on your child’s 2 other sensory gifts.

How Your Child Interacts with the Environment

Senses are friends. They help build your child’s experience in this big world. Like a true team, the senses sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and proprioception and vestibular sense work together. Let’s pretend that you are at Dairy Queen with your kiddo. Your child is going to see, touch, smell, and taste the ice cream’s flavor, basking in the frosty chill of a blissful experience.

Our other senses are still at play too. Let’s also pretend that your child hears their favorite song in the background. Proprioception and Vestibular senses are working too. They tell your child how to put the ice cream in their mouth and to sit up while eating. Every sense is utilized, made important, yet we hardly notice the magnificence of it all. With each sense engaged, we effortlessly incorporate them into life experiences, which will help your child process information and use it actively in life (we can also call this sensory integration).

Our Internal Senses: Proprioception & Vestibular

Our internal senses, Proprioception and Vestibular, sure know how to hide from us! We rarely notice how they guide us in living fruitfully day-by-day, which is why we’re so happy to show you their valuable potential.

  1. Proprioception: Feeds us information about body awareness: knowing where your body is in space. It keeps us from walking through a door without hitting the frame. It keeps us walking down stairs without missing a beat. It even keeps us from applying too much force to an object like setting a book on a table opposed to slamming it. This sense also helps your child put the ice cream shop treat into their mouth instead of their cheek!
  2. Vestibular: Gives us information about movement and balance. With our bodies wandering around this exciting world, we need to know how and if we are moving in our environment. When back at the ice cream shop eating a delicious treat, you’ll notice that your child is sitting up straight on a seat, typically not lying down or standing up. The Vestibular sense applies to our sense of motion too like swinging or riding an elevator. Going down!

The Warning Signs of a Sensory Issue

Your child’s senses are unique to their experience. Sometimes problems with their internal senses can arise. Some problematic behaviors to watch for with internal senses are slouching, moving too quickly, crashing into things, clumsiness, and unsteadiness while walking. Keep in mind that caregivers can nurture their child’s senses by encouraging exploration, movement, and playing in different, yet consistent ways. Get out there and move! If upset during these activities, it’s common for kids to need a break to be calm and quiet because of overstimulation. Rest assured, if you have concerns about your child’s movement in play, we have your back. Always feel free to reach out for help. Feeling constricted with the senses is no fun because they are here to set us free.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2018 and has been updated to reflect the most up-to-date information for parents and caregivers.