The Map of Me

Body Awareness in Children

Body scheme is the internal awareness of where body parts are in relation to each other. Body schema depends upon sensations received through activities involving the muscles, joints, skin and soft tissue. Every time a child moves, plays with a toy, tenses his muscles, experiments with gravity or is touched they are enhancing awareness and skills.

Children who have difficulty with body awareness/body scheme have problems that show up in movement and activity. Children with these schema problems have trouble with coordination which spills over into an inability or reluctance to play activities and sports with peers. They may not be able to figure out how to climb on the monkeys bars or because of poor feedback from their body, may be fearful of engaging in many movement activities.

Resent research show us that many children and adults have issues with body awareness/body schema. In the book, “The Reason I Jump,” author Naoki Higashida, describes a 13 year old Autistic boy's poor body perceptions this way:

“In my gym class, the teacher tells me to do things like, 'Stretch your arms!' and 'Bend at the knees!' But I don’t always know what my arms and legs are up to, not exactly. For me, I have no clear sensation of where my arms and legs are attached, or how to make them do what I’m telling them to do. It’s as if my limbs are a mermaid’s rubbery tail. I think the reason why some kids with autism try to get hold of an object by 'borrowing' someone else’s hand is that they can’t tell how far they need to extend their own arms to reach the object. They’re not too sure how to actually grab the object either, because we have problems perceiving and gauging distances. By constant practice, however, we should be able to overcome this difficulty. That said, I still can’t even tell when I’ve stepped on someone’s foot or jostled someone out of my way."

Many children with autism are particularly challenged by poor body awareness/body schema due to poor connectivity in the motor area of the brain.

Common Signs of Body Awareness Problems

All children refine their body awareness as they mature. The child with body awareness challenges may exhibit many of the following manifestations:

  • Seem to move awkwardly or stiffly?

  • May seem to be physically weaker than other children?

  • Use too little or excessive force on things (for example, has trouble attaching clothing snaps, pop beads, and Legos, writes way too light or too dark with a pencil, breaks toys often)?

  • Push, hit, bite, or bang into other children although he isn't an aggressive child?