How Can Joint Compressions Be Used in a Therapeutic Preschool Program?

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often experience sensory processing issues, which means that these children experience sensory input in a way that differs from children who are typically developing. If children with sensory issues or autism is enrolled in a therapeutic preschool program, it is important for their instructors to take the time to identify the unique concerns of that child, in order to provide the most comprehensive care possible. Children with sensory issues or autism may experience issues with proprioception. One way to improve proprioception is through joint compressions, a modality frequently used by occupational therapists.

What is proprioception?
Proprioception refers to having a sense of where your body is in space.

How do you know if your child has issues with proprioception?
If a child experiences issues with proprioception, they will appear clumsy or uncoordinated, as they do not have a sense of where their body is in relation to other people or objects. This may mean that they experience frequent collisions (with these people or objects). It is also possible for children with proprioception issues to exhibit sensory-seeking behaviors to receive additional sensory input. This may look like running into walls or frequently chewing on pencils or crayons.

How can a therapeutic preschool program help?
If a child has autism or sensory issues, they may benefit from a therapeutic preschool program, which places on an emphasis on key developmental skills, including proprioception. Some therapeutic preschool programs will even have an occupational therapist directly involved in the classroom, who can provide additional support in building these skills.

What are joint compressions, and why are they helpful?
Joint compressions, which may also be referred to as joint tractions, can be a calming strategy for children with sensory issues, as well as a way to improve proprioception. A joint compression involves applying deep pressure (compressions) to joints, particularly in the arms (from the fingers up to the shoulders). This technique can be provided by parents at home or by therapists in a therapeutic preschool program.

Children receive proprioceptive input when a parent or therapist provides joint compressions, meaning that they have a better awareness of where their body is in space, relative to other people and objects. This method can also improve postural stability and improve regulation of both the nervous system and brain.

If a child is enrolled in a therapeutic preschool program, an occupational therapist might work on this strategy with them in a one-on-one setting, perhaps in a quiet sensory corner when the child is feeling overstimulated in the classroom.

Do you think a therapeutic preschool program is right for your child? Contact CST Academy at 773-620-7800 to learn more about our therapeutic preschool program that incorporates occupational therapy, as well as ABA therapy, feeding therapy, and speech therapy into daily routines.